Friday, December 20, 2013

QR Codes - They REALLY are easy to make!

I know there have been a lot of blog posts (I'll link to them here.) over the past several years about using QR
codes in the classroom; yet, we see very little of their use taking off in our classrooms. As we begin the new year with new teacher laptops (They really are coming!), please consider giving QR codes a go! There are so many ways they can help students, staff and parents access information quickly, and they work across all mobile devices.

Here is a Google presentation that I have used over the past several years to train teachers. There are lots of ideas for HOW to use them in the classroom pictured. Many teachers seemed to like the idea of using a QR code to "attach" a student's digital project (Ex: Prezi, Google Presentation, Stupeflix, or YouTube video) to their paper notebook such as a Intereactive Journal. That way, when students and teachers want to view all of the work around a particular topic, everything is right there. Very handy!

Recently, I came across this Prezi by Nicole Zumpano which is worth a view! She shares lots of different QR code generators and apps as well as some terrific ideas for classroom use.

Creating and Using
Since we are a Google Apps district, probably the easiest way to create them (in addition to Google Spreadsheets) is by using the Chrome extension (which you should be using for a number of reasons anyway)! To read them, I have had great success with the QR Code Reader and Scanner app  for the iOS devices although there are zillions out there and you should spend some time playing with several to suit your needs/personality!

If you need to create a number of QR codes, say you're making a self-checking workstation, then using this
formula is really handy (directions for setting this up is in my presentation above).
  =image("" & A2)

Additional resources for QR Codes in the Classroom

So, start out the year with a new tool in your toolkit! You'll be glad you did! Leave a comment and let us know how you're using QR codes in the classroom!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thinklink Revisited

Over a year ago, I wrote this blog post about Thinglink. I thought I'd give you an update with several other blog posts about how to use this tool in your classroom! I also just read about their Educator account which
is FREE so you can manage your student accounts (even under 13 with permission - see their terms of service)! You must act today! All new teacher accounts created BEFORE the end of December will have access to Thinglink Premium features!

Just a refresher - Thinglink allows you to upload an image and tag parts and pieces of the image with links, videos, embeds and more. Think about how YOU could even use it in a presentation or lesson!

Here, Susan Oxnevad shares 10 Innovative Ways to Use ThinkLink in the Classroom.

I just saw this tweet from her using Thinglink... Flexible Learning Paths.

Interesting Ways to Use Thinklink in the Classroom post by Jamie Forshey embeds a collage of famous composers Thinglink which links to music and biographical info. Cool! She also gives ideas for similar Thinglinks in other content areas. Bet you have some ideas! How can you add to the list? Comment below!

Lastly, visit the Thinglink Pinterest boards!

What's stopping you from trying Thinglink?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank You Mrs. Wideen! - Some terrific ideas for using technology in the classroom!

I happened upon Mrs. Wideen's Blog today and found several terrific posts! Her post from Saturday, Different Ways to Generate Ideas Using Technology , shows how she has used Popplet and Padlet (with Chirp) and Write About. Take a look at her examples!

The other one I explored was her post from September - 6 Ready to Go iPad Centers! Here she has links so you can download them and use them the next day!

  • The first one uses the app Write About which has a free version. The "write about" can be sent to the Camera Roll as a picture and/or students could record themselves reading their "write about." From there, the possibilities for sharing are endless!
  • The second one is a fluency station using Audioboo - also free. I would suggest that you check your settings and not allow location services and teach students not to upload their own photograph. We have developed a similar workstation. Here are links to our documents. Workstation and Rubric   There is also an Audioboo app in the Edmodo store - $4.99 for unlimited use with your groups. I think it might be a little more secure, but I don't yet have experience with it.
  • The third one uses the Pocket Zoo app. The app costs $2.99 and looks really cool. If you don't have the money to spend, I'm wondering if you could find some free animal cams - such as this one, and still use her recording sheet (or create your own)!
  • The fourth one is a math center using the Draw and Tell app. It costs $1.99. Again, if looking for free, I think you could create a similar experience using EDUcreations, ScreenChomp or ShowMe.
  • The fifth one uses a recording of The Napping House by Audrey Wood from YouTube. I don't know how she had the YouTube app going directly to the recording, but you could use a QR code reader app to scan a QR code you had made or create a "web clip" to the recording. Then, the students use Explain Everything, a $1.99 purchase by you could also use EDUcreationsScreenChomp or ShowMe.
  • The sixth station is a measurement station (non-standard measurement) and uses Explain Everything as well.
Thanks again to Mrs.Wideen for sharing. How can you modify or tweak her workstations to work for you and your students? Please share your ideas below!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Google in Education Online Courses

Google has released several self-paced online courses designed to help you meet your teaching and learning
goals. For teachers in Spring Branch, the following courses would be most beneficial:
Google Drive for Educators
Chrome and Chromebooks for Education
Internet 101

By registering for the course, you can track course progress and take the assessment(s).
To received district PD credit for taking the course, simply request out of district credit in Workshop and attach documentation.

Monday, October 21, 2013 - Add File Uploads to your Google Forms!

Wow! Have you ever wanted to have people actually attach a file to a Google Form? Form+ ( does just that. Watch Randy Rodgers short video and learn how! It's as easy as adding the Form+ app and creating a form!  I can see teachers really enjoying this capability. Students could attach Word documents, pdfs, pictures, and more...

AND, a big plus - you can access the Camera Roll and Camera on an iOS device! So, teachers could use these forms to collect work done non-digitally at a workstation!
Thanks Miguel Guhlin for sharing!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Confused, and yet, very excited... living in the education world

Last week, I found some time to watch one of Will Richardson's ISTE Conference sessions AND a TEDTalk by a Jinha Lee.

Together, both have left me pondering ever more so how rapidly the world is changing. That's not to say I didn't know it already, but after exposure to both of these presentations in the same week, I feel even more confused. I'm left wondering how on earth are we are going to move this ginormous floundering world of K-12 public education to meet the needs of students - students like Jinha - students who are designing and creating things I can't even wrap my head around.

Will makes the following points:

  • Change always starts with confusion. We are in a very confusing moment in education.
  • Traditional education (delivery/just in case) is no longer relevant today when we carry the "sum of human knowledge" around in our pockets. 
  • We don't need to be "better" educators, we need to be "different" educators.
3 Starting Points to help us be "different"
  1. "Knowmadic" learning/self-organized learning: based on passions and interests at the moment; reference - Knowmad Society
  2. Design Thinking: problem solving model; reference - Design Thinking for Educators
  3. The Maker Movement: we can create products to solve problems; reference - The Maker Education Initiative and the book Invent to Learn

Questions that now come to mind...
  • Are enough educators (I guess I need to include... and policy makers) confused now that we can make change happen? How do we give kids more opportunity to learn? 
  • How do we help them get the skills they will need in a world we can't even imagine (but they can and they do)?
  • How can we get started at the local level?

Did these videos get you thinking too?

PS. Want to learn something today? You might be able to use this resources that Will shared this site in his presentation. The EduPunk's Atlas of lifelong learning

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Flat Classroom 15 Challenges

While I can't seem to make it through a MOOC (maybe I'm just trying to learn too much at once), I am managing to keep up (somewhat) with my readings. These next challenges are related to Chapters 4, 5, and 6. Chapter 4 focused on communication. I was introduced to the term technopersonal and was reminded how our students from impoverished homes (and districts) are lacking in the development of their technopersonal skills that are essential for success in today's world. However, we still are faced with educators who don't have time for their students to use Google Docs in 5th grade because the students need to learn cursive in order to be successful on the SAT. Seriously? Yes, I was told that today! In Chapter 5, the Enlightened Digital Citizenship model was shared. I think it points out the complex nature of something that many adults take for granted. Educators are tasked now with finding room for it in their already crowded curriculum; but in the lives of our students, I would argue is more important than a lot of the content there. The chapter also talks about copyright issues, which again, are big and complex. So, onto the challenges!

Challenge 4: Communicate with New Tools
This challenge is to use an asynchronous tool and a synchronous tool that were discussed in the chapter and share them on my blog.

The synchronous tool is easy. Today, I participated in a Google+ Hangout with one of the developers of There were 5 of us in the hangout. We were able to share information and questions, Kevin was able to share his screen with us, and we were able to use the chat feature as well. It worked really well and was all for FREE! (I should have taken a screen shot during the hangout!)

Unlike Jarod in the video, educators in SBISD allows educators access to Google+ and therefore, Hangouts! We are planning to use it as part of our Connected Learning Networks this summer. I am really excited about it!

For the asynchronous tool, I used Google Docs. Shelby Acevedo at NHS, shared a presentation and was soliciting feedback. I was able to insert comments when I had a few minutes. She can read them when she has an opportunity to return to the presentation later today. You can even give voice comments now which I should have used just to give it a try! Had Shelby been online at the time, we could have used the chat feature to converse synchronously. While I didn't use that feature today, Sheri, Carrie and I employ that capability all the time. It is one of the great features that I find invaluable and one of the reasons that One Note falls short for me!

Challenge 5: Go Mobile
For this challenge, I am to use my own mobile device and find at least one educational way it may be used. Gee, which way... We encourage teachers to use tools such as Socrative for formative assessments in classrooms. We are a BYOD district so what a better way to encourage the use of cell phones in the classroom. How about using Twitter? Teachers can create a classroom hashtag and use Twitter as a backchannel, as a summarization tool, find "experts" to follow.. the list grows everyday. How about using Audioboo as a way students can self assess fluency? I worked with a teacher to develop an Audiobook workstation in the classroom complete with a rubric and step-by-step directions (more for teachers than the students). We also have teachers and students creating tutorials (recording the lesson on the iPhone or using EDUcreations, Show Me Interactive Whiteboard, etc. on the iPad) and uploading them to YouTube. Our challenge is that YouTube is not accessible within the district right now on iOS and Android devices. We are working with our content filter to get that changed.

Challenge 6: Create a Classroom Monitoring Portal
This challenge is a little more "challenging" for me. We are to create a CMP (classroom monitoring portal) for our classroom. I'm not sure that I totally understand all of the components of a CMP... Here is go, none-the-less.

(I have been holding onto this post for a week or so. I cannot seem to figure out the RSS. I have contacted The Flat Classroom folks. they are working with me but with everything else going on here right now, it will be another week or so before I have time to move on! So, I decided to go ahead and post Challenges 4 and 5!)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Microsoft Partners in Learning

Recently, I attended a two day Microsoft Innovative Educator training. It was fast paced, fun and full of terrific resources for teachers that I didn’t even know existed! Here’s a quick run-down on one of those resources! Certainly worth a look!

You’ll find some terrific free Microsoft software as well as some rich resources for teaching and learning! To begin with, you’ll need to create an account. Once signed in, select the resources tab and then Free tools.

Resources>Free tools
Here, you’ll find an extensive list of tools, many of which are free software along with tutorials and learning activities. Here are a few tools we explored during the training that you could use in your classroom today:
Windows Movie Maker - A free movie making tool. During the training I was able to use Community Clips to create a short video tutorial for Windows 8.
Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 - A powerful computer algebra system, with step-by-step equation solver and powerful visualization tools, that will help students grasp mathematical concepts.
AutoCollage - Select several images and the software will generate a collage in seconds!
Songsmith - Songsmith automatically generates musical accompaniment for anyone’s voice. Get rappin’ today!
WorldWide Telescope - Explore outer space from your classroom!
These are just a few of the many tools there. Spend some time - there’s something for everyone.
Another category certainly worth your time is Professional Development and then 21st Century Learning Design.

Professional Development>21st Century Learning Design
As part of the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research (ITL) project, rubrics were developed that help educators identify and understand how they can build students’ 21st century skills into their lessons. There are 6 rubrics of 21st century learning, each one an important skill for students: collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving and innovation, the use of ICT for learning, and skilled communication. You’ll find the rubrics here (well worth your time) as well as examples of learning activities from around the world.

The Partners in Learning Network is a place where you can come to learn on your own or find and connect with other educators around the world! I'll be sharing more from the training in upcoming posts! Thanks Robyn and Sarah!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Voice Commenting in Google Docs! Can it get any easier?

Collaborators can now comment on documents in Google Docs which is a terrific feature for classroom teachers! How? You'll need to install the free app to your account, open the file differently, click record, and then share the recording with collaborators. It is really easy. Watch this brief video which walks you through the process!

Friday, April 19, 2013

I have failed or "seen the light!" I can't do it...

FOR you. It has taken me nearly 20 years, but I NOW GET it!

In my current role as an educational technology facilitator, I spend a lot of time developing trainings for teachers that will help them integrate technology into their instructional program. After "discovering" the technology tool(s) and seeing ways that can be used to engage learners, I develop the content, organize it and then create a training, nicely packaged. Teachers come. They learn. I try to make it easy for them! I am there to guide and support them, keeping them from frustrations (at least some of them).
We have fun! Despite my best efforts (and the efforts of the teachers) the training so many times isn't implemented. There are a myriad of reasons, but I think the biggest is that I was trying to do too much FOR them.

The piece that really takes the time is the shift in pedagogy that comes with using technology in new ways. Very few come prepared for that. First, we are asking teachers to create more student-centered classrooms. Technology (the piece we have advertised) comes after that. There is really no way that a teacher can come and shift their practice to facilitator, learn the tool, see the implications for integration with the content, and understand how to introduce it in the classroom in a few hours. In fact, this blog post The Ugly Truth of Technology Integration by Mark Fijor says it well.

Constructing and communicating knowledge is personal, is messy, and takes time, whether it be teachers or students. If we can help teachers see the opportunities and then commit to spending time developing their understanding and skills, we will all be more successful, students included. I hope that I am prepared to make the shift to facilitator as well!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Flat Classroom 15 Challenges

Recently, I purchased Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds - Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time figuring that it might make it easier for me to help teachers ease into global projects if we had a process. I have been a huge fan of Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay and the Flat Classroom Project ever since I was introduced to it in Atomic Learning back in 2008. Being a Google Apps district as well as an Edmodo one, we have lots of tools that we can employ in our classrooms to be successful with global projects. We also have a diverse population that should be able to help us make the connections. Everything seems to be in place!

So, in an effort to share my interest in making global connections (and in conjunction with our Google + Networks = Collaboration Network this summer), I thought I would publicly share my experience with the Flat Classroom 15 Challenges! I'm curious to see how much "overlap" their is with the way we are planning our summer networks!

Challenge 1: Set Up Your RSS Reader
To be honest, Google Reader was not my thing. Something about the visual layout never worked for me. I did have an iGoogle start page until our district went Google Apps and we removed that feature due to security concerns with students.
I am a Diigo user and belong to the Diigo in Education group which is a group that I learn from constantly. Love it! (Shameless plug!) I have a Diigo SBISD group that I then share my finds with. I am a bit disorganized and probably not very efficient when it comes to my PLN. Somedays I use my bookmarks bar, some my TweetDeck account, etc. However, it seems to have worked for me.

From the comments I read on the FlatClassroomBook site, I decided that I would try Flipboard. I had heard about it and read some rave reviews, but I had never taken the time to set up. So last night, I set up Flipboard and brought in some of my favorites: Miguel Guhlin, Karl FischKim Cofino and George Couros (a new find from #ETMOOC). Additionally, I brought in my Twitter feed. I don't like Facebook and only use it from time to time personally (guess I'll get on board once I have grandkids), so I didn't include that. I'll see how I do with that. I think Google+ wouldn't connect because of the way we do LDAP authentication. I hope we reconfigure that this summer. I really like Google+ and Hangouts!

So, we'll see how that goes!

Challenge 2: Set Up Your Blog
Luckily, I already had this blog! While WordPress has more beautiful themes, I like the ease with which we can create Blogger blogs since we are a Google Apps district.

Challenge 3: Connect and Reflect
I had never really paid attention to the term Connectivism before this book. I like it. We are working to help teachers take the time and find the value of a PLN. I started my PLN back in 2008 (at least that is what I remember) when I first learned about the Flat Classroom Project and Diigo. And, as they say at the Oscars, "I wouldn't be where I am today" with my PLN.
In response to this challenge, I have accomplished the following:

  • added the Twitter hashtag #flatclass to my TweetDeck feed
  • visited the Global Learning project - they have some Voicethread book reviews in different genres, a heroes voicethread and more
  • visited Mrs. D's Flight Plan blog where she reflected on a collaborative project with another classroom on social justice

At SXSWedu this year, I attended a session by Lindsey Own around place-based education. We tossed around lots of projects that classrooms could collaborate on! There are just so many opportunities! Interested? Let's get together and move forward!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Google Takeout! Where have I been?

I just found out about Google Takeout today from Brian Gray of St. Stephen's Episcopal School! Google Takeout lets you take your data our of your Google products in one fell swoop or bit by bit! What does this mean for SBISD? This service will provide a viable way for our graduating (and exiting) students and/or staff to take their Google portfolio of work with them! And, it is EASY!

Go to You'll be prompted to login to your account. Then, you'll be in Takeout! Determine if you want all of your data from all of the listed services, or select Choose services from the menu and select your desired data. You can even select just a folder or two!

Click the download button. You can also request to receive an email once the download file is ready for download to your computer.

From here download the zip file. Your data is in portable and open formats. It should be easy to import to other services or into your personal Google accounts.

This seems to be just what our exiting students need to retain their work! We should also use this at the end of 5th grade for our students when they migrate to the domain from the domain.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Reflections: Connected Learning from an "#etmoocer"

Digesting after attending the archived webinar from Alec Couros's Introduction to Connected Learning and Dean Shareski's session Sharing = Accountability. (Both terrific sessions)

And... after pondering on the blog "starters" - the questions posted by Alec:

  • What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it?
  • How important is connected learning? Why?
  • Is it possible for our classrooms and institutions to support this kind of learning? If so, how?
  • What skills and literacies are necessary for connected learning? How do we develop these?
  • What are limits of openness in regards to privacy & vulnerability? Are we creating or worsening a digital divide?
  • How do we expand this conversation?
for two days now, I can ponder no longer. So here goes.

My PLE/PLN is probably looks like the most disorganized environment ever (even though I am a fairly organized sort of individual)! It is very organic and fluid, depending upon the day. It probably resembles the diagram of participants in an open online course by Alec Couros as shared on Debbie Morrison's blog post How to Create a Robust and Meaningful Personal Learning Network (PLN), as there are now hundreds of people who are helping to shape my understanding and drive my commitment to continue on this path! Some I seek for curated lists, others for their open classrooms, some for their reflective thinking, so they are somewhat loosely grouped. They have become my teachers and my inspiration, along with many classroom teachers I engage with in SBISD!

I began on this journey more than a handful of years ago when as an assistant principal I was scouring the web for ideas on technology integration in the classroom. I believe one of my earliest major influencers was Kim Cofino who opened my mind and thinking about coaching teachers. From there I found Vicki Davis, Julie Lindsay, Karl Fisch and Anne Smith, Miguel Guhlin, etc., etc., etc. Needless to say, this #etmooc experience has been another influx of influencers! I can hardly comprehend the shear numbers of talented and creative educators out there - Will add links shortly.

I share my learning (some of it) through this blog, through our SBISD Ed Tech Google+ community, my Edmodo group (code: nknmvo), my twitter @justlk, and through conversations with teachers and administrators. However, I will admit, for the most part in the online world, I have been more of a lurker (as my kids would describe it) over the years than a contributor. I thought Dean Shareski's two tenants for professional learning as shared in his #etmooc session Sharing = Accountability (definitely worth the time - see archives),  LEARN, then SHARE.  I am where I am today thanks to those hundreds who have lived by those tenants!

I started reading Prensky's book Brain Gain last night. He believes that we are all becoming better thinkers as a result of technology and I have to agree. Technology has afforded me the opportunity to ideas and thoughts that I would have never found. Without technology, Karl Fisch and Anne Smith would have never come to our district to help shift our thinking.

To me two of the biggest skills necessary for connected learning are curiosity and curation.

PS. I feel like I am always a day late and a dollar short! I just went to pick my part of the song, and I've missed the deadline! Maybe next year... :-(

Monday, January 21, 2013

Recent "finds" for the iPad

Having a hard time keeping up with new apps for mobile devices? (Not to mention trying to keep sharing what you come across on all of your media platforms, this is a topic for another post.) Anyway, here are a few that I just have to mention:
Knowmia - This free app is great for creating video lessons. Use photos, drawings, text and animation to create slide decks. Record your lesson. Use a pointer. Add picture of picture of your face while teaching. You can also add videos to your lessons. There are more options than in Show Me and Screenchomp. Import and export between Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, pdfs. Complete the Lesson info, provide tags and publish to  Here's a link to the iTunes Preview page.
If you are looking for app that will record and allow you to save to your camera roll (export mp4s), then Explain Everything ($2.99) is still your best solution.

Haiku Deck
Haiku Deck - Create beautiful presentations on your iPad. Select images either by searching (Creative Commons licensed images), using the camera, or upload from Facebook. Share you decks via email, Facebook, Twitter or export and send via email. You can also grab the embed code from the website once uploaded (see below). It is viewable on any web-friendly computer, tablet or phone. Here's a link to the iTunes Preview page. As always, you would want/need to limit student information that is shared for the under 13 crowd. I chose to just share by first name and last initial and my twitter name.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

For more apps to share content/understanding you may want to take a look at my training for Top 10+ Creation Apps. And, as always, feel free to comment on your experience!

And, if you're an Edmodo user, feel free to join my group of curated resources for the classroom - complete with folders! Group code: nknmvo