Monday, June 12, 2017

Blended Learning with Catlin Tucker

Nebraska educators have been implementing and reaping the benefits of blended learning for quite some time. ESU 8 teachers are no different. One of our most respected experts in the field is Catlin Tucker, blended learning practitioner, guru, and published author. Her book titles, especially Blended Learning in Grades 4-12, have paved the way for many classrooms to begin blending and adapting the techniques for their own needs.

Even more valuable, however, is Catlin's experience as a practicing teacher in California. For the approximately 50 professionals who gathered together at the Lifelong Learning Center on June 9, her classroom examples and advice from the trenches were spot-on and tremendously helpful.

The crux of the day was spent experiencing blended learning's most well-known model: station rotation. We not only experience Catlin's station-rotation experience (all centered around dynamic student discussions) but also learned many implementation tips. 

Catlin shared an expert look into the flipped classroom model of blended learning and ways to adapt it to leverage even more student engagement and success. 

Another highlight of the day was playing a classroom vocabulary game Catlin created with her students, modeled after 'Word Sneak' from the Tonight Show. 

All in all, the day was a successful blending of pedagogy and practices, interaction and inspiration. Nebraska educators who attended were excited to work on implementation goals for the upcoming school year... even this early in summer vacation!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

NNNC Summer Technology Institute 2017: Rethink, Redesign, Reimagine

For the past decade you have been joining us just days after the conclusion of your school year to get your geek on with other Northeast Nebraska educators passionate about EdTech. And if you haven't, you are missing out! Highlights of this year's STI held May 31-June 1 at the Lifelong Learning Center in Norfolk included Matt Miller's keynote message and breakout sessions. Matt shares many of his resources at

Members of the NNNC STI Planning Team with 2017 Keynoter Matt Miller on day 1 of the event.
In addition, numerous regional practitioners gave of their time to share their educational technology talents with the approximately 300 participants.

You can continue to access the event's Sched site as many presenters have shared links and resources associated with their presentations, accessible even after the conference's conclusion:
View the NNNC Summer Technology Institute schedule & directory.

View photo highlights from the two day event here:

STI 2017

Don't miss next year's event, currently scheduled for one day (Wednesday, May 30, 2018). The NNNC planning committee was excited to announce that Leslie Fisher is our confirmed keynoter.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creating Infographics: Drawing Tools with Pages and Keynote

The drawing tools available in Apple's creation apps are simple, yet powerful. Even a non-artistically inclined person can create digital graphics without even leaving the application they are in! Even more importantly, the act of creating infographics can lead to deeper understanding and longer-term learning for students.
Note: Whether demonstrating the drawing tools in Pages, Numbers, Keynote, or even iBooks Author, the process is the same. Use these ideas as starting points. What kinds of lessons do you teach that would lend themselves to students creating information-filled graphics?

First some teaching resources:

Creating Infographics is an excellent learning activity in content areas as well.   

See a few student examples about the Rock Cycle from Kevin Morrow's 8th grade Science class here. Mr. Morrow commented on how visible the student creations made their understanding of the science content he had taught. In addition, he enjoyed the variety and creativity that the project allowed for. 
Rock Cycle Infographics with Pages
Click to advance slideshow through multiple student examples. Or visit the collection at 

Additional links and resources:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Student Publishing: Merging analog and digital with augmented reality

Don't abandon printed projects... just enhance them with technology integration!
This was a driving force in a recent project I had the honor of working on with the West Holt 4th grade classes. Mrs. Shirley Rossman wanted to create a class book to demonstrate their collective knowledge of Nebraska history. And the 150th anniversary of Nebraska's statehood was the perfect backdrop. 

Excitingly, she reached out to me looking for ways to infuse digital media into the printed, bound book that she envisioned as a class product. We collaborated to design an augmented reality experience for the reader, where each student's two-page spread could be brought to life with AR. 

This was our process:

1. Text development

Students selected their Nebraska topics, researched them, and wrote their text narrative for their page.  The pages of the book were mapped out on large classroom posters. To preserve the authentic student-authored look and feel, Mrs. Rossman had each student hand write their text onto one of the page templates to go to the Schoolmate Publishing Company that she had selected to produce the class book. 


2. Create trigger images

Students created original artwork to accompany each page of text, again drawing by hand on the book template pages. I used the iPad to take a quick photo of each student's page of artwork so that I could designate each one as a trigger image for the augmented reality we planned to build in. 

*Side Note: I applaud the originality and creativity of the students' hand-drawn images. While it would have been easy to find images online or even create them digitally, the authenticity of these students' illustrations makes the book extra special. 

3. Create media assets

Each student had the opportunity to create at least one media asset to accentuate their topic. We talked about bringing their research "to life" and trying to enhance the content in a creative, not simply redundant way. This was truly where student choice and voice could shine. App which I demonstrated as suggestions to choose from included:
  • Chatterpix
  • Tellagami
  • Toontastic/Toontastic 3D
  • Puppet Pals 1&2
  • WordFoto
  • iMovie
  • DoInk Greenscreen
Nearly every app was new to the students but the definitely jumped in and learned quickly! Some student seven created multiple assets that could be selected when readers scanned their image. Mrs. Rossman did a wonderful job of coordinating additional parent volunteers, para professionals' help, and simply workspace on the days we reserved for media production. 

We did post all the video assets on a YouTube playlist, just as a secondary way to showcase the students' work and creativity. 

4. Blipp-building with Blippar

While Mrs. Rossman sent away the physical pages of the book to be printed and bound, I began working to develop the augmented reality interface.

I selected Blippar as our AR platform because of its reputation with education, in addition to its free price. Teachers can sign up for the Blipp-builder dashboard and create unlimited "blimps" for their classroom, completely for free.  Blippar, the app which readers will use to 'scan' the pages, is free as well, and available from both the iTunes and Google Play Store.

While the blimps created with an educational account aren't "public" they can easily be viewed with a simply "campaign code." This is a 5 digit number that users enters into the settings of the app prior to scanning. We put these directions as the pregame page in our book:

The Blippar dashboard asks you to first name your campaign: West Holt 4th Grade NE History Book and then create a blipp for each student by uploading their trigger image. 

To add to the interaction, you have several options. The student's media asset can be displayed on initial startup. Or you can add a "button" for the user to tap to initiate the media asset. Sometimes I used generic buttons from the Blippar library, but often I used a custom logo that I created for the project and uploaded to the Blippar library. 
Various actions can be accommodated on each tap. Ones we primarily used included:
  • play video (either uploaded directly to Blippar or linked online)
  • view image gallery
  • go to URL
  • open PDF
Each blipp needs to be saved and published individually, but all can be accessed with the one campaign code in the app. 

It seems there is a world of untapped potential to blips-building and I have a feeling that we only scratched the surface with this project!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Building Relationships: Marzano Element 39 through digital storytelling

Marzano Instructional Element 39: Understanding Students' Backgrounds and Interests

This element is key to building relationships with your students-- no matter the age level or subject you teach.

The "iAM" movie project is a simple lesson idea with variations available that any teacher could try immediately.

Ask your students to create a short video trailer about themselves-- their passions, interests, and even less surface level 'getting to know you' information. Highlighted tools of choice include Adobe Spark Video and iMovie trailers (both free or readily available apps)

For full "lesson plans" and example videos, be sure to read these two articles:
If you want to build out this lesson even further, consider looking through the resources available on iTunes from Apple Distinguished Educators about "iAM: A Brand Called ME"

either as a collection:

or as an iTunes U course (if you have access to iPads):

I referenced this same Marzano Instructional Element in my ESU8 Wednesday Webinar on iMovie + Marzano. Students are almost certain to be willing to complete this activity even outside of class time and even more importantly, you will learn new insights and deepen relationships with your learners.

 The following student projects from my classroom are an example of how you can get to know your students easily through a simple digital story. Show them to your class today and challenge your students to see how creative they can be in sharing their "personal brand."

Monday, March 27, 2017

SMART Board Games: SMART Lab Activities

The activities I mention in the video below are all games you can create in less than 5 minutes for your classroom. They are all available in the most recent version of SMART Notebook (16.2). You may need to check for updates, however. To do so simply launch SMART Notebook, and then click on Notebook > Check for Updates and Activation

Then just click on the Update button next to SMART Notebook, and enter your password to your Mac, and let it download and install. If you have troubles, feel free to ask Greg, Kevin, or myself to take a look. 

Once you’ve done this, you are all set to try out the fabulous activities inside of the SMART Lab section. Like I mention in the video, these are a great way to create classroom review games with no additional software or website sign up required. Some you would play full class on your SMART Board and others can be accessed with student devices.  My hope is that you will choose at least one of the following short videos at the page below, watch it, and immediately build a game activity for your classroom to try tomorrow

Let the SMART Board Games Begin!

SMART Notebook Games 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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