Digital Doors was created as a place for me to blog and share resources that I think would be helpful for teachers integrating technology in meaningful ways in their classroom. My goal would be to write a blog post a week, but with my busy schedule, that doesn't happen. I write when I can and rely on nifty tools to help me share what I am finding when I don't have time to write.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Taking time to Create, Collaborate, Communicate and Think Critically

This fall I have had the great opportunity to teach a class at Western Washington University. The class is called Digital Decisions.  The course is for pre-service elementary teachers.  Most of the students are currently in practicums and will be starting their student teaching soon.  The course is designed to help prepare students with the tools and knowledge needed to successfully and effectively use technology for learning in the elementary classroom. Although much of what I am teaching is similar to what I share with teachers in our district, I've had some opportunities to do things a little differently in the university classroom.  Probably the main difference has been time.  My opportunities to work with teachers in the district is always so limited by time constraints that I often resort to the fire hose approach of just trying to share as much as possible during the limited time available crossing my fingers that teachers will somehow find a way to revisit and explore the information shared.  This is not an approach I like and it is not good teaching.  When working with technology, teachers (and students) need time to play and explore.  Especially if tech is to become anything more that a "how to" productivity checklist.  Although I still feel the constraints of time teaching at Western, I do feel like I have a little more time to actually model and teach in a way that I would hope we would work with our students.  I make sure that each session involves an opportunity to create something using both creativity and critical thinking skills.  Students have many opportunities to collaborate and communicate with others in class and also with teachers and experts in the field beyond the classroom walls.  Although, college educators are called "professors",  I try to do as little "professing" as possible.  I want my students doing the talking.  I ask lots of questions and have students work together and share what they are learning instead of me just standing and delivering my knowledge and expertise. The reality of taking time for learning is difficult when the goals of the class are many and the time is limited.  But there is great power in forcing ourselves to do this.

Although I feel like I was able to have success with this with my college students, I am still struggling with how to make time for staff/students to create, communicate, collaborate and think critically when I may only have a one hour window of time to teach a certain group of staff members about instructional technology during a given year.  I try to have structures in place to use a blended model of instruction providing materials, resources and activities that can be done before and after training.  But this approach requires a commitment to extending the learning outside of the training time.  It requires a commitment to continued learning and exploring.  And from me, it requires the ability to follow up with staff and teachers and determine current needs and next steps and the ability to help teachers make those next steps.  Yes, we are all in the business of learning and learning can be hard and time consuming work.

Today is a great day to learn something new. 

Take a look at the online courses I have compiled and created for teachers in our district.  By using the "Just in Time" Flipped model approach, I am hoping to meet the professional development needs of more of our teachers. Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Join the Sharing Revolution

In my job, I have the opportunity to get out into schools and see the amazing learning happening in classrooms across the district.  I don't think that a day goes by that I am not asking a teacher or a student if it is ok if I share with others what I observed or learned from them.  We have so much to share.  This should be a part of what we do.  We have so much to share and we also have lots to learn from the teacher in the room next door, or the school down the road.  In addition to sharing with our fellow teachers, which in itself is so powerful, we should also sharing with our community.  Our community is and should be part of our learning village. Whether we work for the district or not, we as a community all want to know about the great learning happening in our schools.  This week, Andrew Bishop shared his latest "Ask a student" video with our community via Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.  And as a community, we celebrated the thoughtfulness of the students and the creativity in sharing.  With the social media tools we have available to us as teachers, we have the opportunity to not only open the doors to our classrooms so that students can learn beyond the walls, but we can also open our classroom doors for all to see the amazing things happening in our classrooms.  George Couros, a champion in building innovative learning cultures in schools,shares this idea in one of his latest posts.

Two things can happen here.  We commit to share with others and we also commit to learn and celebrate with others.  What a powerful idea! 

Of course, not all of what we see and hear on Social Media about our schools is positive. The best way to change this is to make sure that we are faithfully sharing and celebrating the good stuff and intentionally reflecting on even the "bad stuff". And because George Couros does such a nice job of sharing with others, I will end this blog with another great quote from George. "We need to make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear." 

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Building Communication and Collaboration Skills with Shared Computers

We are rolling along in the Mount Vernon School district providing more and more access to technology for our students.  This school year alone, we have placed over 800 more devices in classrooms across the district.  As we continue to push forward, with available and planned resources, we have looked at several models.  The trend seems to be toward a One to One or as I like to say One to World model.  As we have researched this model and as personal devices have become more affordable and accessible to our students, we have considered whether our students need devices assigned to them that they have access 24/7 or do we need to have all classrooms equipped with technology so that students have access at school whenever needed.  We have also have implemented models that allow students who do not have access away from school to be able to check out the devices they need to continue their learning at home.  We are researching and building ideas and beginning to build toward that capacity with the funding sources we have available.

Our current reality is that we will continue to distribute devices to classrooms, as funding from our 3 year tech levy permits. This will result in more that 1750 new student devices added to our district on top of the classroom and lab devices currently available to students.  The plan with this levy is to have shared carts for each elementary grade level and secondary content area.  With our current funding, we will not get to one to one.  But have hopes to move closer and possibly even achieve that goal when we run our next tech levy in another 2 years.

As I have worked with teachers on how to best use these shared devices, I have made a few observations.

Although it is sometimes nice to have all students individually working on devices at the same time.  With this model, students can get through tasks quicker and every one can be on the same page.  But often collaboration and communication skills are not a part of this type of use.  This model doesn't always take advantage of the powerful learning students can achieve when working together. And since, for the most part, we are working with shared carts. This means that this type of work becomes an "event" when you can get the cart instead of a ubiquitous tool in the classroom. 

Managing the devices by distributing to all of the classes sharing that cart requires a different plan for using the devices.  The devices become a center in a rotation or they become one of many tools available to  to a group of students working collaboratively.  This model allows for students to work more on communication and collaboration skills.  With this model, students begin to see the devices as tools for learning and less as an event.  It does have some drawbacks such as the distributing, storing and charging devices becomes a bigger challenge as devices are assigned to one cart which may or may not be in a convenient location for everyone in the team to access.  

I see value and challenges in both models and I think that with teachers working together on a schedule, that both of these models can be possible with flexible planning.  I encourage artists in the craft of teaching to make the most of the tools you have.  Remember that the tech is the tool, not the teacher.  Think of how you can best take advantage of the situation.  The necessity to share can lead to great opportunities for small group work, project based learning, collaboration and creativity.  Make the most of this.  Build on the strengths of your current model.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Time to Sign Up for the Hour of Code

The time is now to get your class signed up to join in on the Hour of Code.  December 7th through 11th.  Each teacher who signs up will receive a $10 gift card.   If every class in the school participates, they could be eligible for a drawing for $10,000 workd of technology.There are many options available for participating.  If your students participated last year, there will be new activities for them this year. There are activities at different skill levels and even opportunities to learn about coding in a fun and hands on way even if you don't have access to student devices in your classroom.

This summer I went to a workshop on coding and computer science put on by  I think that my biggest take away was the importance of exposure. Although there are attributes to learning coding that make it useful for all students.  (Great problem solving, critical thinking, sequencing, etc.)  Computer Science will not be the field that every student chooses.  But, if we don't provide students the opportunity to learn and explore computer science starting at a young age, we build a generation of students who see coding and computer science as hard, and an unattainable goal.  Students who have the exposure at an early age, see computer science and coding for what it is, a fun and challenging field that they might enjoy and might choose as a career choice one day.

This last year, I had a few opportunities to visit the Google offices in Seattle.  I wish I could provide that opportunity for all of our students. (Except for the part where I got stuck in an elevator for over an hour.)  At the Google offices, you definitely get the impression that computer science is not just for the Big Bang Theory crowd, but that computer science is just down right COOL! I would love for all of our students to have the opportunity to someday work in an environment like that.  Being exposed to these skills, helps build future opportunities.

One thing that I wish I would have seen more of at the Google Campus were women working in the computer science field.  And Google will tell you that they agree.  We need to make sure that we are also exposing our girls to the idea of computer science as a career choice. I actually believe that Mt. Vernon, although maybe off to a late start with the Computer Science opportunities is now making great efforts to insure that our girls are welcomed and encouraged in classes and clubs for computer science.

Besides encouraging you to find a way for your students to participate, I have a challenge to you as teachers.  I challenge you to participate in the Hour of Code as well.  Remember, it is just an hour and you don't have to wait until December 7th to give it a try.  I warn you though, that once you start, it can be hard to stop.  As you "play" with coding consider what learning benefits your students will get from this activity. How can this help them be better mathematicians, communicators, artist and scientists? How can this fit in with what you are currently teaching?  Which of your students might be inspired to learn more?

Learn more and register your class here.  Pin It Now!

Visible Thinking Through App Smashing

I often talk with teachers about the idea that we should balance our student's screen time between consumption and production, going heavy on the production side as that is where students are able to construct knowledge from the material they have "consumed".  Many teachers struggle with the idea of students using the technology for more than just going to a single site and following a prescribed program.  Depending on the site, the prescribed program may be outstanding, but it represents only a little of the amazing possibilities available when we teach our students to use the tech tools as a way to construct new knowledge and show their thinking in visible ways.  I like to encourage teachers to think beyond the boxed programs and help students to begin to develop a whole tool box of useful tools for both constructing knowledge, sharing their understanding and even more amazing, showing their understanding in multiple ways. These tools can provide opportunities for students to ask further questions, show their understanding in a way the makes sense to them, and then celebrate that learning by sharing and collaborating with others.  Just as you wouldn't try to build a house with just one tool, we shouldn't expect our students to build  knowledge in this way.  And most likely, each of us would choose at least slightly different set of tools for performing the same task.  Students should have some choices in tool selection as well.

The idea of App Smashing, encourages teachers and students to start building a menu of appropriate tools and then choosing what they think are the appropriate tools for the learning at hand.  We might use one tool for collecting information, another tool for synthesizing that information and yet another tool for sharing the learning with others.  At first, our tool boxes might be limited and our choices to complete the task may be suggested or very similar to each other.  But as our tool box grows, so do the possibilities. 

So how to we start growing this process with limited time to teach the tools and most likely limited devices? 

One way I have seen teachers solve these issues is by creating task cards, with either an app menu or specific app suggestions for the activity.  If constructed at an appropriate level, even very young students are able to follow the task cards independently.  

Here is an example from 1st Grade Teacher Meghan Zigmond. Students learned and wrote pumpkin facts.   She then created a simple task card using the pumpkin carving app on the ipads.  The task cards included pictures that showed the student what apps to open and step by step what to do. Students saved their pumpkin pictures on the camera roll and then opened up Chatterpix. Students used Chatterpix to record their pumpkin facts.  She then published the videos to YouTube.

Based on the ideas I have learned about App Smashing and the belief that giving students choice is important, Paula Dagnon and I have built a few App Menus to help you get started doing some App Smashing of your own.  We've tried to limit our list, so that you or your students don't end up with an overwhelming laundry list.  We've also included both iPad and Web Based apps so that you can use the tools appropriate to your classroom. 

What I would LOVE to see happen is that we as teachers begin to build and share task cards for our students using apps and programs we have available in our district.  Let me know if you are interested in doing some collaborative App Smashing.

All About App Smashing

    App Smashing is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks. App Smashing can provide your students with creative and inspired ways to showcase their learning and allow you to assess their understanding and skills.

    App Smashing - K-12 Technology
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Library Media Specialist Get Techy

Several of our Library Media Specialist had the opportunity to attend the Washington Library Media Association Conference this last weekend in Yakima.  After seeing a few tweets from the conference, I decided to ask our Library Media Specialist if besides all the great stories, books, and literacy, did they learn anything techish?.  

Thanks to those who have shared.  Looks like it was a great conference.  I look forward to new great ideas from our very innovative librarians as they incorporate what they learned and what inspired them at the conference.

Monica Hodges from Jefferson picked up some great ideas for using Chromebooks with Destiny and Worldbook.  She also learned about a set of books called Savvy Cyber Kids that is available for free.  (I think that she learned this from her Tech Savvy daughter who is a Senior in Computer Science at the UW, but she did share this.)  And check out Monica’s Library Blog.  The Hodge Blodge. Monica regularly writes about books and other happenings in the Jefferson Library.

Jim Coldwell from Centennial is excited about setting up a Makerspace in his library media center after attending a session on the Maker movement. This is a big movement now, and it is taking root in many library media centers.  I look forward to seeing this idea grow.

Jon Sadzewicz at the high school shared about Piktochart.  Infographics are a useful literacy format and creating them is a great way for students to synthesise large amounts of information into visual and easily interpreted chunks.  There are many free tools for creating infographics.  Here are a few of those tools.


Estevan Vivanco at Madison Elementary learned about how to create a video news program for kids. The students create a script, then revise it and once the teacher gives it a stamp of approval, they record the news interview with a camera.  Students can have access to great lighting and even a green screen and their teacher can edit the video and make it look professional!  The presenter at the workshop also showed some ways to make a cool intro with news-program-sounding music.  Might be a fun thing to try in Mount Vernon!

Dale Fournier at Washington shared that she went to a great session on jazzing up a library website making it more informative, and inspiring for students.  She plans to try a tool called Library Thing to suggest new books to students.  A few other additions to add to a library webpage are One Click Digital and Tumblebooks of the Day.

Eva Greenwald was excited to learn more about Destiny, some great tips about incorporating tools like Screencasting, Photostory, Live Binders, Symbaloo, Voki, and Smore into her lessons and she is interested in exploring the idea of using a service such as One-Click Digital to provide audio book access to our students. (Student's currently have access to this with a Public Library card, but if this service was available in the schools, it could be managed through Destiny. Some neat possibilities.

Our Library Media Specialist are such great resources for our students and teachers. We remember that they know books, but we sometimes forget they they also have a lot of great information on other learning resources and they are happy to share not only the very best book ideas, but also great ideas and resources for research, literacy and more.

HInt How to get the most out of a conference you didn’t attend.

  1. Have those that go share a Google Doc and keep collaborative notes that can be shared with others.
  2. Find out the Twitter HashTag for the Conference and follow the discussion online.
  3. None of this is the same as being there and making face to face connections, but it does open the door to a lot of great resources and free learning.  
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Reads

As a part of my job as a Digital Literacy Specialist, and well really as a teacher, I am constantly reading and learning new things from a variety of sources.  I do my best to share some of what I learn with you.

I use a tool called Feedly to gather the blogs I read into one place so that I can easily sort through and find information to share.

I thought I'd quickly share a few blogs that I enjoy and learn from frequently.

Richard Byrne at shares great resources daily.  He reviews new tools and shares tutorials he has created to show teachers how to effectively use the tools in their classroom.

Alice Keeler at appeals to my Googly and nerdy side.  She shares great ideas for using Google Apps for Education in your classroom and the coolest part is that she creates and shares her own scripts to add even more functionality to Google Apps.

George Couros shares at The Principal of Change  He is a principal at a school in Canada.  He always has challenging ideas about how to make schools and teaching better.

I'll stop there for now and share more later.

I encourage you to use a tool such as Feedly and to start gathering a library of blogs that you enjoy and find informative.  (They don't all have to be school related.) Pin It Now!

Beware the Transformation Trap

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch Jennie Magiera's Keynote Speech from CUE 15 online.  I love sharing videos, but this one is about 45 minutes and I struggle to get people to find the time to click a link much less sit down and watch a 45 minute video, but as I watched this video, I wished that my local teaching friends could all hear Jennies speak.  Jennie is a 4th and 5th grade teacher who works with students in an impoverished area of Chicago.  She has built such an amazing relationship with her students and with her teaching style and passion, she has empowered her students to use technology in truly transformational ways.  The activities she does with her students truly show a redefinition of learning.  Not only is she using tools such as Skype and Twitter to help her students have a voice that reaches beyond the classroom, but she has empowered her students with the ubiquitous use of technology in her classroom.  The tools and resources are very much in the background.  The tools are not the important piece, just as we don't think much about a pencil when we pick it up to write, these students don't think much about the tools they are using, they think about the actions they are making by using the technology.  As I said, the video is long, but it is very entertaining and inspiring.  The use of tech doesn't have to be elaborate or hard to be effective.  Students just need to know about and have permission to use the tools available in empowering ways.

How can you expand your students world beyond their classroom? Pin It Now!

When Resources are Sparse, Think Redefinition

Photo by
Yesterday I had the opportunity to send out notifications to another round of Early Tech Adoption Team Grant recipients. It is fun to see the responses of those who have received the grant and really hard for me to send the messages to those teams who will need to continue to wait. Due to the nature of the levy, money rolls in over a three year time frame and not all at once. Thus the need for a roll out model and the reality that some teams will have to wait longer that they would like. For this levy we chose an Early Tech Adoption model that encourages those who are ready, to make a plan, participate in team directed professional development and share their experiences with others. It is our hope that with this model, when teams receive their technology, they will already have a plan in place and be ready to start learning and then sharing with others. By the end of this year, we will have placed 28 mobile carts with teams across the district. That is 840 student devices! And the response so far... MORE!!!! We need MORE and we need it NOW! Once teachers get a taste of what can happen when students have more ubiquitous access to devices, they really have a hard time with the idea of sharing one cart with a whole team of teachers. The uses of technology changes when students and teachers have regular access to student devices. So as exciting as it is to roll out these carts and build more and more access for our students, it is also important to note that even though the district is moving in the right direction at speedy and steady pace, we still are in a relative desert to what could actually be utilized for our students. So, with that in mind, we need to be mindful of making the best use of these valuable resources. Sure, there are many great, engaging and in some cases, time saving ways that we can use these devices in our classrooms, but with the resources being limited, it is valuable to plan to use technology that allows you to do things you could not do without the technology. Dr. Ruben Puentedura has developed a model to help teachers identify effective and transformative uses of technology in the classroom.   The SAMR model divides activities into four categories with Substitution being the most basic (and the one most often seen in classrooms,) and Redefinition being the most transformative.  With redefinition, the lessons you design uses technology in a way that allows you to do something you could not do without the use of technology.  Take a look at this video to learn more about the SAMR model.

It is important to note that teaching "below the dotted line"  is not a bad thing.  It is a progression. The SAMR model is a great tool for reflecting on lessons and planning new activities.  Where do your activities fit?  If they all seem to be Substitution and Augmentation, try stretching your thinking and redesigning the lesson with the capabilities of the tech in mind. What more can you do now that you have technology?

"Technology is not a panacea. Not all technology is good for pedagogy. And great pedagogy can and will exist without technology. We have, however, greatly miscast and underutilized technology’s power. When we enlist technology in the service of exploratory learning for all, watch out! On the other hand, if we plod along with standards and assessment using technology only as a prop, we will get what we deserve: a higher level of tedium.” Michael Fullan “Stratosphere: Integrating technology, pedagogy, and change knowledge.” p. 78

And for those of you who are interested in learning more about how to use technology in ways that goes beyond just substitution, I have a Cloud Academy Class just for you. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sharing our Story in 15 Seconds

More and more, schools are seeing Social Media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Instragram as effective tools for communicating and sharing their story with the community.  While in the classroom, we still tend to see Social Media as a distraction and possibly even a danger for our students. Recently, I saw a quote from a student on George Couros' blog that said,

"Social Media is like water. It is all around us, you can let us drown or you can teach us to swim." 
We need to teaching and modeling the proper use of social media so that our students can indeed swim to success.  One way to do this, is to jump in as teachers and schools and use Social Media as a place to put our best foot forward for our community to see.

In her blog Langwitches, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has a series of articles on using Social Media in powerful ways in school.  She shares of an exercise she did with educators where they had to create a 15 second video sharing the story of your school.

Challenge: Tell Your School or Classroom Story in 15 Seconds

An Instagram Video is 15 seconds.  I challenge you to share the story of your school or classroom in a 15 second Instagram video and then tag the video with #mvsddigital. This is a positive way for us to brag on the great things happening in our district.  Let's see if we can get at least one video (and hopefully more) from each school in the Mount Vernon District.  You can share your classroom story or your school story.  You can do it all by yourself, or you can enlist some colleagues to team with you. These videos will be posted to our Digital Literacy Google+, Twitter and Facebook pages oh and of course on Instagram.  (Have you liked or joined these groups?)

By the way, I recently had to sit through a 13 minute video telling the story of a district in our state.  Great district, but 13 minutes was too long to hold my interest.  You can get a much bigger bang for your buck if you practice your summarizing skills and keep it short and sweet.

Using Instagram in the Classroom
Social Media FOR Schools

When sharing photos or work of students.  Please be sure to check that their parents have not opted out of publishing student work. 
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