Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Writing from First Grade iPad Authors

    Are you as excited for St. Patrick’s Day as the creative First Grade Authors in Mrs. Willis’s class are?

    Students personalized the leprechaun character in their stories with Toontastic 3D
    Follow one leprechaun’s adventures in O’Neill as he searches for the pot of gold on St. Patrick’s Day.  

    Skills addressed:
    • Creative writing
    • Oral reading fluency
    • Story elements  (setting, characters, beginning, middle, and end)
    • Local community history and traditions (O’Neill St. Patrick’s Day Celebration)
    • iPad skills 
    iPad apps utilized:
    Our process included brainstorming ideas and writing the stories on paper with Mrs. Willis. When Mrs. Morrow worked with us on the iPads we created the setting and characters for our stories and recorded the animations with the Toontastic 3D app. Then each student created their own Book Creator project and designed their pages by adding the typed text of their story, their Toontastic animation, additional illustrations, and of course, their signature. Each student’s individual Book Creator pages were Airdropped to Mrs. Morrow’s iPad to be combined into one class book. Students brainstormed the facts for the ‘Did You Know?’ pages in between each of the leprechaun’s adventures. Finally, we filmed the conclusion for the book all together and added it to the last page of our Book Creator project. 

    So, how can you experience this creative story? 
    Luckily, you have three options. 

    1. If you have an iPad or a Mac, download the free iBooks app. 
    Use your Apple ID to download a free copy of the book and then read in iBooks. 
    *This is the most fully functional version of the product. You can swipe to turn the pages and click on the videos to play within the story. 
    View in iBooks: 
    2.  If you do not have an iPad, but have another type of digital device, you can “read” the whole story as a video on YouTube. 
    The video of the whole book is over 18 minutes long, but you can easily skip around to find your favorite parts.  
    *TIP: Be sure to watch the ending of the story, no matter what! It starts around 17:44

    3.  A final option would be to stop in the 1st Grade classroom and read the book there. We will have a printed version on paper (minus the student voices and videos) as well as being able to view on the school iPads. 

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day from some amazingly creative iPad authors!

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Music Teachers Collaboration Day

    2017 Music Teachers Collaboration Day was held at ESU 8 on Monday, February 13, 2017.  Some key takeaways may be beneficial to share beyond this local group.

    1) Blended Learning : Station-Rotation model

    Participants learned through a station-rotation blended learning experience.

    BlendEd in the Music Classroom:
    Find Your Rhythm with Blended Learning

    Key Resources:  

    Additional Technology + Music Education Resources:

    2) Movement + Music : Inspiring Music Educator Kristin Lukow

    We connected via Zoom with +Kristin Lukow from Adams Central. She inspired us with her energy and ideas for incorporating movement and multiple learning modalities into her music classroom. We all tried "Bouncing to the Beat" of one her elementary student routines. 

    Monday, January 2, 2017

    TOP 5 Easy New Year's Resolutions for Educators

    "Out with the old; in with the new" is honestly NOT a phrase that should completely dictate our 2017 planning as educators. Research shows that much of the "old" that we are doing is good for kids, and there is no reason to abandon EVERY educational practice in exchange for the newest trends.

    However, the start of a new calendar year, and a new academic semester for most, does encourage thoughtful reflection on the first 18 weeks of school. Along with that, it is an ideal time to infuse a few new practices for increasing the success of your classroom or campus. Here are my Top 5 recommended simple practices to incorporate immediately in 2017.

    #5 - Connect your Classroom (Virtual Field trips or Zoom video conferences)

    Although Virtual Field Trips are far from "new," the new year is a perfect reminder of their availability, simplicity, and educational power.  Whether free or paid, interactive or not, synchronous or pre-recorded, a VFT can be a great entry point into a new unit of study, a review of key content, exposure to application of concepts in the real world, or even a classroom reward for work well done.  As a reaffirmation to this time-honored practice, check out Matt Miller's (STI 2017 Keynote) latest post featuring 10 great virtual field trips for 2017.

    New to ESU 8 educators this school year is the availability of free Zoom Pro licenses (contact Molly to get set up). Whether it be to share your screen for tech support purposes, collaborate with a colleague over distance, or simply launch an interview with an expert, Zoom is one of the easiest, most reliable tools currently available. And Zoom's newest features include some really powerful educational tools, including a green screen feature. To learn more about connecting your classroom globally, visit this recent ESU 8 presentation. Set a professional goal to launch at least one global collaboration experience for your students in the early months of 2017, and don't hesitate to reach out to ESU 8 for support. 

    #4 - Coding for Kids (Swift Playgrounds and drone robotics activities)

    One unfortunate byproduct of the Hour of Code initiative is that schools restrict coding opportunities for students to that one week in December. Coding should be infused year-round for all ages and this new year is prime time to work in some coding activities in your classroom. 

    If you have access to iPads for students I would highly encourage starting with Swift Playgrounds. Apple announced their Everyone Can Code initiative this school year, consisting mainly of the new (and free!) Swift Playgrounds app (for newer iPads) and accompanying free Learn to Code Teacher's Guides and free video lessons on iTunes U.  To be perfectly honest, teachers don't need to know a single thing about coding and still successfully lead the lessons that are laid out in these resources. 

    To read more about opportunities for exposing kids to the power of coding, visit this blog post from Hour of Code week 2016 at ESU 8. Also, contact us at ESU 8 to learn more about checking out Sphero SPRKs and/or Parrot mini drones to use for computer science activities in your school. 

    #3 - Online discussions (Canvas LMS or blogs)

    Promoting more authentic dialogue for students has never been easier! If your classroom already has access to a Learning Management System (such as Canvas) you most certainly should take fuller advantage of the built-in features, one of the most powerful being discussions. While an obvious discussion prompt would be a question that all are expected to answer, there are many options for structuring it to promote additional skill development.  (Delayed response, group moderated discussions, private student-teacher discussions, for example, are all possible with Canvas LMS.) Consider using an online discussion for your next: bell-ringer, scavenger hunt, back channel, daily skills practice, journalling activity, vocabulary practice, anticipatory set, brainstorming session, gallery showcase, or exit ticket.

    Using a blog for authentic student dialogue is simple to get started as well. If your school is a Google Apps for Education school already, then every account already has access to their own Blogger space. Start a class blog and add your students as co-authors. Set up a calendar so that each student takes his/her turn as being the "daily blogger" and documenting each day's learning objective and activities. Alternatively, each student could begin the 2017 semester with their own individual blog. On it, they could post their best learning artifacts (portfolio), weekly progress updates, or personal reflections on their learning journey. Regardless, do not neglect to emphasize and model the powerful practice of commenting to make student discussion even deeper. 

    Coming Soon from ESU 8: a Wednesday Webinar (and Winter Workshop session) to help you get more from Canvas. 

    #2 - Breakout EDU

    Coming back to school following a break is a perfect time to run a Breakout EDU in your school or classroom.  The team-building and critical thinking benefits are vast; not to mention the opportunities to infuse current curriculum. If you haven't yet tried a Breakout EDU, I would recommend beginning with one of the featured games on However, don't be afraid to stop there! Everyday there are more and more quality games being added to the published and sandbox games areas of the site. Consider searching for games aligned with your next unit or topic of study. 

    Don't have a Breakout EDU kit? Don't hesitate to reach out to us at ESU 8, as we have several kits available for checkout in the Media Center. In addition, multiple members of the professional development team are willing to come out to your classroom and help you administer your first Breakout EDU experience. 

    Yet another option is to try one of the newest digital breakout games. These require no physical locks or kits of any kind, as they can be completely solved on any web-enabled device. Beware, however, as there are no answer keys to these deductive puzzles!

    #1 - Apple Teacher Program

    In my opinion, there is no current, better way for personalized professional growth than the Apple Teacher Program.  Simply register for the program with your Apple ID, download the free Starter Guides, and take the quizzes at your own time and place. Learning at your own pace is certainly appealing, as is the ability to retake quizzes over and over until you have mastered the content. Even if you already feel competent in your Mac or iPad skills, you are certain to learn new ideas for the classroom application of many built-in tools and apps. Read more about the Apple Teacher Program in this blog post from Edutopia.

    If you don't teach in an Apple environment, you might consider Google's similar certification program. While the quizzes do have a fee associated with them in the Google Certified Educator program, you can still access the study materials and learn from them for free.

    Whatever path you choose, be sure to celebrate your accomplishments through the ESU 8 Certification Challenge. Submit your certification(s) achieved and enter your name in a drawing for a free technology integration day led by the ESU 8 Team.

    So, there you have it... my Top 5 picks for educators to amplify their teaching in 2017.  Choose one right now and commit to it as your professional New Year's resolution. Better yet, select more than one and work on progress towards those goals little by little. I guarantee you'll add new life to your classroom environment, and even without ditching ALL your past practices.  As always, remember your ESU 8 partners are ready to work alongside you to help you achieve these goals and more.

    Happy 2017 to all educators, near and far!

    ~Katie Morrow, ESU 8

    Tuesday, December 13, 2016

    Hour of Code 2016

    There were so many new resources for coding with kids available during the #HourofCode week for 2016 that I just had to share them with you through this blog post! Remember, that coding shouldn't JUST happen during Computer Science Education Week, but rather all year long! Actually, if you visit NOW (following the completion of Hour of Code Week) it is even better, as your progress will be saved in the system. (It wasn't possible during the week of Dec. 5-9 due to the extremely heavy traffic to the site.) So, here are some of the new and applicable activities for schools for coding for this year's Hour of Code week and beyond:

    Swift Playgrounds app

    Apple recently released a free iPad app from which anyone can learn the Swift programming language. The Swift Playgrounds app will only run on a newer iPad updated to at least iOS 10, but if you are able to access it, you should definitely give it a try! The logic skills and fundamental coding lessons are excellent for any age (although geared more towards grades 5-8, in my opinion). Within the app you will find various challenges in addition to 'Learn to Code 1 and 2' including a special "Hour of Code" challenge, designed to be completed in about an hour. Also, don't forget about the free teacher's guides available, making exposure to coding easy for an educator to implement regardless of personal experience.

    If you don't have a new enough iPad to run the Swift Playgrounds app, there are plenty of alternative options. Choose an 'Hour of Code' activity to get started and then go beyond an hour by joining a self-paced course.

    Some of the Hour of Code activities that students really enjoyed from the website this year included the following:

    Minecraft Hour of Code

    Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code

    Code Your Own Sports Game


    See all possible activities (and filter by age level, experience, coding language, etc.) here:

    Code with Google

    Mickie Mueller and Becky Miller shared a Google Hangout on Air about Hour of Code Google Style.
    You can view the recording below.

    The following were resources they shared:
    Also, check out Mickie's coding LiveBinder:

    ESU 8 schools who participated in Hour of Code activities were numerous! I was personally able to visit several classrooms and lead a few activities myself. It was wonderful to see firsthand students' excitement and ability to master the art of block coding in a very short time. The rich dialogue, college and career-ready skills, and deep life lessons that come from these student experiences validate the small amount of time they take in our schools. If we have the opportunity to hook one kid onto something that he or she can continue to pursue independently, we have opened a tremendous doorway for their future!

    2016_12 Hour of Code
    2016 Hour of Code photos from ESU 8 ... click to advance images

    Saturday, October 29, 2016

    How to start a classroom YouTube channel

    Available as handout on 

    How to start a YouTube channel for your classroomOpen ...
    Katie Morrow, ESU 8

    • Ability to Share: Access
    • Organization: Playlists
    • Promotion & Spreadability: Subscriptions
    • Storage & Cost: Unlimited, free space!

    Examples of Educational YouTube Channels:

    Getting Started:
    *Each Google account/Gmail address automatically has 1 YouTube channel associated with it. You simply need to activate it to use!
    What You Need:
    • Google account with Google+ enabled
    • OR YouTube app

    Steps to Complete:
    1. Sign in to your Google account.
    2. Visit
    3. Click on ‘My Channel’ from the main menu.
    4. Accept the terms of service to create channel.
    5. Add Channel art and Channel description (optional).
    6. Choose your Channel Settings including privacy settings and customizing the layout of your channel (add a channel trailer and organize playlists into sections)
    7. Create new playlists around topics of interest by either uploading videos or clicking “Add to” button when viewing videos from others.
    8. Share your playlists and/or your entire channel.

    Channel Settings
    • Description (sentence or two describing your channel content, purpose, and intended audience)
    • Channel art (suggestion: Create graphic with dimensions of 2560 x 1440 pixels or use to create YouTube channel art.)
    • Privacy (can be set at the individual video and/or playlist level as well)
    • Customize the layout of your channel
      • Channel trailer (welcome video that will only play when people visit your channel for the first time)
      • Suggest content to subscribers
      • Organize playlists into sections (lots of options for organization here)
      • Advanced settings

    • Can create as many playlists as you want...
    • But only 10 playlists can be displayed as sections on your channel homepage
    • Create playlists by class, chapter, or topic
    • Add videos to playlists directly upon uploading or when viewing from YouTube
    • Add tags for additional keyword searchability

    Uploading videos to your channel
    • Upload button from YouTube in a browser
      • Choose Privacy: Public, Unlisted, Private
    • OR use YouTube capture app (signed in to your account) from a mobile device
    • While uploading, you can add description, details, etc.
    • Click ‘Publish’ for it to be searchable/subscribers to get notification

    Power in SUBSCRIBING
    • Require students and encourage others to Subscribe to your channel by clicking once on the button on your Channel homepage.  
    • If you get over 100 subscribers, you can create a custom URL for your channel.

    Additional Information

    • In order to upload videos longer than 15 minutes you must verify your YouTube account (YouTube will send a verification code as a text message or voice mail so that you can verify you are a human YouTuber!)

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    Advance your EdTech skills with the ESU 8 Certification Challenge!

    ESU 8 is excited to announce a new challenge encouraging everyone to advance their technology skills. With recent technology certifications announced by both Apple and Google, educators can pick their platform of choice and work through the quizzes to achieve certification status.

    Work through the quizzes, digital badges, and certification tests on your own... or ask your ESU 8 Technology Integrationists for help. After each certification achieved, submit your name to be recognized on the Honor Board and in various ESU 8 publications. If you have already earned either of the certifications, we still encourage you to submit your name and celebrate your professional accomplishments.

    Each entry to the form on the ESU 8 website will also enter your name in a drawing for a technology integration day provided by ESU 8 for your classroom. (Drawings to be held March 1, 2017.)

    Visit to learn more and get started! 
    Contact or with any questions.