Stop Motion Cells

Mr. Summitt’s students have been learning about mitosis and they have put together really nice animations using their iPads. I have edited four of my favorite animations turned in through Schoology into a single movie.

Watch these cells divide and learn.


Schoology-Shared Devices and Assignments

While we hope to be a 1:1 district in the future, at this point in time, we have lots of devices that are shared. When students create a video or audio file, the easiest way for teachers to collect these files from shared devices is to use Schoology. I have created two tutorials to help teachers who are new to Schoology. The first one shows the process of creating an assignment in a class. The second is a video students can follow when it is time for them to turn in their work.


1:1 Teachers: Have you tried podcasting?

Back in the late fall of 2004—yes!, just over ten years ago—I started podcasting for Goochland County Public Schools. These were audio-only. Some podcasts were conversations with then superintendent, Frank Morgan. The main idea behind the podcast was to highlight the good things we were doing with technology in our schools.

Today, TechTimesLive is still updated, albeit more slowly than before. With 167 episodes, there is a considerable amount of content I have pushed out, online, with a focus changing to providing professional development videos.

What’s special about podcasting?

Podcasts are one form of serialized, creative communications. It’s more of a delivery method than media, but we tend to think of podcasts as audio or video files that we can listen to using a mobile device like an iPod or a phone. But what’s interesting is the process involved in creating these files and the potential for a world-facing audience once they are published.

You see, podcasts (and here I need to be specific) are like television shows, a magazine, a blog, or a YouTube channel. It’s an umbrella container for episodes. Just like a magazine has multiple articles (or a regular column, month to month), a blog has posts, and a YouTube channel has multiple videos, a podcast is organized around a topic with multiple takes on that topic.

Why might I start a podcasting project with students?

Podcasting in the classroom can take some time, which is why, in a 1:1 environment, podcasting becomes a new type of homework assignment. The key is—students will love making podcasts if we can focus the series on something students want to know about. There has to be a little passion behind the theme of the podcast, otherwise, producing episodes will feel like tedium and an audience beyond the teacher will be less likely…

When you produce episodes in a podcast, you have to be organized, know what you are talking about, and polish your presentation. In my recent effort in producing a new podcast outside of work, I thought it would be easy. But when I set out to actually do an episode, suddenly, I realized it was more work. But it was still fun. And after I recorded each episode, I knew a lot more about the topics I had chosen to focus on in each 20-minute episode.

How important is the audience?

We don’t play television sitcoms on TVs in forests where there are only birds and trees. An audience is important, but it does not have to be huge one. As Chris Anderson taught is in his 2006 book The Long Tail, there is a huge amount of diversity in interests out there, and published podcasts, I believe, are likely to be of interest to somebody. For students, that can be a peer, a relative, or even a stranger who shares a similar interest with the student.

How do I get started?

Share some examples. You might start by making it one choice in several for a student, not everyone is required to make their own show. Some students may choose to work together, and that’s fine. While the iTunes Podcast Directory (open iTunes Store and click to Podcasts) has ton of examples of podcasts, you might also share the video episodes put together by Super-Awesome Sylvia.

Does it have to be a podcast?

No. The point here is serialized creative communications. More examples can be found in YouTube videos produced by teenagers and college students, blogs, live streams of video game playing, a really cool Flickr account, and more. The point is, we get into a habit with our communication, sharing in a somewhat regular fashion, as a way to share, but also teach ourselves more about something that matters to us. While 1:1 technology is not required, it’s a pretty awesome use of our devices, and a good reason personalize learning.

For more on using GarageBand to produce a podcast with iPad, visit this online tutorial for some tips!

Schoology–Differentiation and Group Work

Schoology makes it very easy for teachers to assign differentiated work to students in ways that don’t make anyone feel singled out. Students can be assigned to pre-determined groups, or materials can be made visible only to specified students within the course.

Watch these videos to learn how. The first video will show you how to create groups within your courses. The second video will show you how to assign resources to selected groups or individuals within your courses.



Taking Risks

This morning I returned from VSTE and hit the ground running. When I stepped into Ms. Kass’s room to say hello, she showed me the projects the students were developing on their iPads. A few minutes later, I stopped by Ms. Potter’s office to let her know I was back in the building. The first thing she asked was, “Did you see the amazing stuff Ms. Kass and her students are doing?” Of course, I had just been there. Here is an administrator’s take on our iPad program and the learning environments it is helping us create.


Schoology – Student Completion Requirements

True or false: When I give my students work, they all finish at the same time.

Yes, keeping kids on task is one of the most difficult issues faced by teachers. Schoology has a tool that can help.

When you have multiple activities planned for a class period, you can create a folder with all your resources and require that students work in order, achieving a minimum score per item. Watch this tutorial to find out how to set up a classwork folder with Student Completion requirements.

Open Letter to Goochland Elementary School

Dear students, teachers, and staff,

Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at your school. I had a super fun time talking about bugs and other tiny things with all of you. You were all so attentive and respectful, and I was blown away by your eagerness to learn.

I am sorry we ran out of time before we got through everything you wanted to see. Thankfully, I am just down the road from you and I can stop by again sometime. Remember we have our blogs, Schoology, and email, and I can send a few more pictures your way. Dr. Hendron and I will also make sure all 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have a copy of my book in their iBooks app.

I hope I have inspired many of you to take a closer look at what might be under your feet of hiding in your yard. Remember every living thing has a proper place on the planet, and has a purpose. Take good care of all of them.

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Again, thank you for the invitation, and I hope to see you all again soon.

Ms. Leiderman


This week we had our second 1:1 computing training, ever. Sometimes this is called ubiquitous computing, meaning “the technology is everywhere.” For SY 2014-15, we are expanding our 1:1 program with iPads to Year 1 – with 5th and 6th grade covered across the division.


Teachers from all of our schools save for GHS attended for learning about our 1:1 program. I’d like to say it was all about using the iPads students will receive in the fall, but it was not! It was focused on deeper learning, engaging students through instructional decisions, and some theoretical concepts like SAMR, TPACK, and more.

I had a lot of fun watching Zoe Parrish, Bea Leiderman, and Joe Beasely work with our teachers in an effort to allay fears and prepare them for delivering the best learning opportunities possible to students next school year.

We also looked at Schoology as a learning management solution for use with the iPads and with laptops for next year. A few core apps, QR codes, and some experience with Google Drive rounded out the experience.

Our next and final summer training is in July: 28th, 30th, and 31st!

As I shared earlier in a tweet, this was the first training session I’ve ever participated in where teachers wanted a hug at the end. I was moved by the commitment of our teachers to inspire our students and to prepare them for their futures.

Writing for Others

Writing, as a pursuit, can be a private pursuit. Writing on a blog is not private, it’s public, but the funny thing is, you may not always feel you have an audience. One person could read your blog post, or 100s, and you don’t really get a reaction unless you have comments turned on and people have something to respond to. Writers also have more established forms of public sharing, through books, magazines, the newspaper, etc. Finally, a lot of writing that takes place in schools is not public nor private, it’s what we might call semi-public. Your teacher and maybe a peer would read your work. Often that writing is to a certain specification, to ensure you are practicing the craft of writing towards improvement.

So, it’s not often that we get to write in school. Illustrate our writing. And, have a guaranteed audience that we know will read our work and give us immediate feedback. But 4th graders at Goochland Elementary recently had this opportunity through a collaborative effort of ITRT Zoe Parrish and classroom teacher Krystle Demas. Demas’ students had the opportunity in class to help Ms. Parrish define what an ebook was, then they were told they would be writing their own! And then they’d have the opportunity to share their ebooks on their iPads with preschool students next door.

Book Example

The books were created with an app we installed as part of our 1:1 pilot called Book Creator, which allows students to create ePub “books” with multiple pages, text, images, and you can even insert video and audio. Students added sound files to each page so that preschool students could be “read to” when the students no longer were there. Ms. Parrish has since loaded the eBook collection on the iPads used at GES specialty center so that the preschool students can continue to enjoy the books created for them by Ms. Demas’ fourth grade students.

eBook Story

The books can be read on a variety of platforms. On the Macintosh, you can use iBooks in OS X Mavericks, and on iOS, you can use iBooks. Access all the books and materials used to deliver the lesson here. Kudos to Ms. Parrish and each and every one of Ms. Demas’ students for their problem solving and application of very creative skills! From what I hear, the preschool students enjoyed the experience immensely.

1:1 Year 1

At this week’s board meeting, we presented some details about our 1:1 expansion next year for grades 5 and 6 across the division. Included in this presentation was some of the numbers involved in all the new devices we will be supporting!

We’re offering training on June 16, June 18, and June 19th for new teachers participating in the 1:1 program. We’re excited about expanding the program.

I also passed out books at our leadership meeting for our principals. We’ll be reading them between now and the summer and have a book discussion at one of our retreat days.

Dr. Mark Edwards, currently the superintendent in Mooresville, NC, and formerly the superintendent in Henrico, has some advice about how and why to start a 1:1 program. As I shared with all of our principals, this isn’t really about new technology or more computers. It’s about improving instruction through engaged student participation in and outside the classroom, through opportunities to personalize instruction, and through teaching that begins to includes inquiry into daily instruction.

Our 1:1 program is being planned to expand slowly, year by year, over a 4-year period. By year four, we plan to have gone completely 1:1 in grades 3-12, across the division.

We will have collected all of the iPads from GES students by June 4, 2014. We plan to re-deploy in Fall, 2014 to grades 3-5 at GES and grades 5 at BES and RES, plus grade 6 at GMS. We will be advertising deployment night times this summer to parents, when families come to learn more about the program, receive training, and take delivery of iPads.

If you’re interested in seeing what our students have done in our “Year 0″ pilot year, check out this link from our November, 2013 iPad Exhibition at GES.

Transforming the Future, Apple Event

Recently I spent two days with other educators from the county at an event hosted by Apple called Transforming the Future of Learning.  This event was designed to support districts that have recently started a 1:1 program and also those that are preparing to begin one.  We covered a bundle of content that we will definitely use to improve our own 1:1 program.  It was also insightful to talk with teams from other districts that share similar experiences to the implementation of our 1:1 pilot program this year, both positive and negative!

Much time was dedicated to the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.  Dr. Puentedura was even there as a speaker to show us how we can use SAMR to transform learning with digital devices.  SAMR describes varying levels of technology integration.  It was designed to help teachers with technology integration in the classroom.  The initial level of technology use is Substitution, followed by Augmentation, Modification, and finally Redefinition.   Next year we will place more emphasis on this model to support teachers in our effort to provide deeper learning experiences for students using mobile devices.   The plan is to provide both training and instructional support for teachers as they develop lessons in the M and R categories!  Dr. Puentedura emphasized that a teacher’s goal should not be to have every lesson in the modification and redefinition category, but to strive to develop a few quality lessons that fall into this category each year – and each year build upon your bank of lesson ideas.  He said that realistically, after a 1:1 implementation, a school could expect to see lessons in the substitution and augmentation categories within the first year to a year and a half.  Teachers will then begin to tackle lessons on the modification level after about another year.  Finally, teachers will begin to take on lessons at the redesign level within the third year.


I was also interested to hear Dr. Puentedura discuss methods for professional development in the use of 1:1 devices and in working with the SAMR model.  Dr. Puentedura stated that it is beneficial for teachers to work together to develop lessons as a collaborative team.  We have always known that through collaboration we can achieve great results.  Next year I would love to help find time for teachers to plan together.  There is an interesting method for collaborative lesson planning that has been used in Japan for years called Lesson Study.  This model has also been successfully used in some schools throughout the United States.  I would love to try it in our schools, as it would provide professional development and a chance for teachers to develop stellar lesson plans together.


I love this metaphor of the SAMR model!

Deeper Learning

What’s the point of a 1:1 program? The point is not to waste taxpayer dollars, or to make our existing worksheets into digital worksheets. Our goal is to truly transform learning to attain Deeper Learning.

As with much of what we do, we didn’t just make it up. We have read and observed and talked to educators around Virginia, around the United States, and around the world.

KQED has a great blog post that explains it really well.

So what defines deeper learning? (…) mastering content, critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets.

Look at the last two. You will never teach kids all there is to know. Give them the tools, and the mindset, to get there after they leave your classroom.

Creating Creators — Creativity is One of our Values — Is it one of yours?

A team of Goochland educators attended a talk this morning, “Emerging Educational Technology” by Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education.

He made sense and challenged us.  Earlier this year he gave a similar talk “Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStrett.”   Please listen to him.

Our technology team here in Goochland accepts the gauntlet he has thrown down about personalized learning.  While we acknowledge the challenges facing us, we get excited imagining the future.

1:1 Success Story

On Sunday night, I was about to change the radio station to play music as my kids requested, when I happened to hear “Mooresville, NC public school…something something something…” I told the kids they’d have to wait and listened to part of a documentary on personalized learning.

I have known about the laptop program in Mooresville for years. I’ve met teachers from Mooresville and read about their implementation. I really liked this documentary because I heard from students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Everyone spoke of the transformation in the way everything is done.

Mooresville Middle School Assistant Principal Angelo DelliSanti says technology doesn’t change education, people do. “If you take laptops and you put them in a school where there are low expectations and no instructional leadership, what you’re going to have are students doing worksheets on the laptop,” he says. “Now they’re just using a text edit tool to fill in their answers.”  

Success requires high expectations, strong instructional leadership, and a true transformation of instruction.

We are just embarking on this 1:1 journey here in Goochalnd County. I hope we can learn from the school community in Mooresville and see as much improvement as they have.

You can read about all the different chapters in the documentary, or skip down to Chapter 5 on Mooresville, at the American RadioWorks website. There is also a link to download the full transcript or the MP3 version of the audio at the bottom of the page. Both contain much more than is available in the written version.

A little competition

This appears at the start of a dissertation I am reading by Rae Niles, completed in 2006. She starts her work with a little ditty written by an anonymous high school student from Abilene, Kansas. It appeared online in January, 2004.

I had a great time working with 14 folks from GES this week – training for the future of their school and possibly the future of our school division. While I was involved for “digital” and “technological” reasons, our real purpose was to consider concepts such as deeper learning, project-based approaches, and considering how we can personalize learning for students. While we joked around about some things be “hot” (thanks go to Mrs. Richardson from Apple for the phrase hotness), I was humbled by the group’s eagerness to approach all of this with an open mind.

Infectious Apps

What apps do you use in your classroom? Is there a more commonly-asked question at educator gatherings these days?

We are in the process of selecting and purchasing apps for our 1:1 pilot at Goochland Elementary School. There are the usual suspects: Motion Math, Explain Everything, Popplet… We do need to do work, but I want school to be a place where exploration and creativity have a prominent place. John Hendron feels the same way. We have had several conversations over the last couple of months about the kinds of apps we’d love to have for our students, and we agree that there is a place for creative, interesting apps in the classroom. Not everything has to be tied to a standard. Not everything has to be about pushing content. The kids must have incentives to WANT to pick up the devices, and drilling math facts is no incentive. As Ruben Puentadura wrote a few weeks ago,

If we want our students to create more frequently and across a wider range of disciplines with mobile devices than they have with more traditional computing tools – and I would strongly argue that this should be one of our goals – then providing them tools that are a pleasure to use is a key component of this strategy.

Having come to that conclusion is not a helpful thing. It is quite the opposite. Now we have to make tough choices and select apps we know will pull kids in and engage them in creative thinking. I don’t have an official list, but I do have my own children’s iPads as a proving ground. Yes, the day my children realize how much I use them as guinea pigs, I’ll have to quadruple (or more) their allowance.

Music is a must. We have GarageBand, but there are other fun apps out there that let kids explore sounds and scales. Bebot is a fun one. So is Musyc. There is also MadPad, which lets you make music out of everyday sounds you record yourself. I’d make earbuds mandatory any time these apps are launched, but kids should have exploration time with them.

iOS devices have really good cameras, and we must teach kids to communicate with visuals even if that is never formally assessed with a bubble test. Taking and editing pictures and making short videos has to happen in these classrooms. While all this can be about specific content covered in class, there has to be some creative exploration time, too. What could be more fun than storytelling with stop motion (OSnap!) or creating fantasy landscapes ( Photo Editor by Aviary). Imagine, for example, all kids using the 1 Second Everyday app from the first to the last day of school. Each student would have a unique record of every single day of the school year. Imagine sharing those at a 5th grade graduation after three years of recorded moments. Instead of the traditional teacher-created, teacher-centric slide show, we’d get to see school from the student’s perspective.

Thinking games are also incredibly important to me, especially ones that are independent of content knowledge and depend solely on the player’s problem-solving efforts. We have already added KickBox and Big Seed to our list, of course. These two are from the MIND Research Institute, creator of the amazing ST Math. They even feature JiJi the penguin. I have spent plane rides and waited out software updates playing these two games. They really make you think. Another favorite is Arcs, a 2D, circular Rubik’s Cube. Unfortunately, this last one is a free “starter” and the full version is an in-app purchase. That’s never good for schools. I could list about a dozen more here.

I guess what I want is for the iPads to be a go-to device during downtime as well as during work time. I want them to be something the kids want to have in their hands to help them explore the world around them and, ultimately, own them in a way that lets them create and share. If the kids are taking the iPads home, they could use them in fun activities that  turn out to be learning activities.

Bring Your Own Device and 1:1 Pilot in Updated Tech Plan

At its latest board workshop on 23 April 2013, the School Board accepted revisions to the Division’s six-year technology plan. The Division has been using the plan since 2010 to direct major initiatives and to plan budgeting towards infrastructure improvements, such as wireless networking at the schools. This revision has added two new pilots announced at the workshop, as presented by technology team members Tom DeWeerd, John Hendron, Peter Martin, Sean Campbell, Jennifer Bocrie, and Bea Cantor. The first pilot will be a “Bring Your Own Device” scenario where select high school students will be allowed to bring mobile computing devices such as cell phones, e- readers, or tablets to school. Similar BYOD programs are being explored locally and around the country. The technology team’s recommendation was to start with high school seniors as the team monitored network usage during the trial. The team will be working with GHS principal Mike Newman to work out the details before the expected September start of the trial. As part of the pilot, a BYOD committee will be formed which will include teachers and participating students. The second pilot is a 1:1 computing initiative, where students would receive a tablet device from the school to use both in the classroom and to take home. This pilot would replace traditional paper textbooks with digital versions, including media that includes apps and videos. The Division decided to try this pilot at Goochland Elementary School, which currently has the fastest connection to the Internet of all three elementary schools. GES also accommodates the technology department’s repair depot, where Martin and Campbell report each day. “Our teachers are ecstatic about this opportunity, and really cannot wait!” mentioned GES principal Tina McCay about the 1:1 pilot. The pilot could provide up to three grade levels with computing devices. It will be financed through textbook funding. GES media specialist Tiffany Ray will be enlisted to assist with the pilot in both technical and instructional capacities.

Hendron told the board that these initiatives help position a technology plan as a vehicle that provides students rich learning experiences. “That’s always the primary goal,” he said.