Administrators: Do You Know Where You Live?


photo of wooden house near lake
Photo by Luke Miller on


I earned my administrator’s license 15 years ago. I announced to my colleagues, friends, and family that I would never actually use it. I had no desire to be an administrator. I was happy teaching and working as case manager to my students with disabilities. Why would I ever want to change jobs? I smugly asked.

Well, here I am, halfway through year 4 as an administrator. I took a new position at a different school as Director of Instructional Technology and in that role, I sit on the administrator’s council. When I started this new position, 19 years into my career in education, I was given a mandate by my principal at the time. He told me that for the first year in my new job, he was not going to ask me about how the staff is coming along with integrating technology or how our new 1:1 chrome book rollout was impacting student learning. He said that my number one priority was to establish relationships with the staff. Relieved, I slowly began to get to know my new colleagues. We shared stories about our families, vacations we had taken, swapped restaurant recommendations, and met up for happy hour on Fridays after school. I was confident in my ability to connect with my colleagues. However, I knew that if I was ever going to actually move the needle in regards to our understanding of how to utilize technology effectively for learning, I needed to be in the classroom. I didn’t just need to be in my classroom, which I was thankfully for one period per day, I needed to be in everyone’s classroom. I work in a high school with about 2000 students and 150 staff divided into roughly 9 departments.

How was I going to get into all of those classrooms?

I had a couple of logistical issues to tackle:

First, although I don’t actually evaluate anyone, I am an administrator and some teachers might be hesitant to have me in their classes. Next, I didn’t know everyone and they certainly didn’t know me.Also, my position was new and the staff didn’t quite understand what my purpose was. Finally, how was I going to find the time to navigate so many classes while still actually doing my job?

After consulting with my supervisor and mentor, Dr. Eileen McMahon (@EileenMcM70), who also was looking for a way to get to better understand our curriculum, students, and teachers, we decided to put ourselves in residence in each department.

Essentially, I would “live” in each department for a week.

“Home is where our story begins”

Annie Danielson

I created a schedule so that each department had a dedicated week and I blocked off time in each day that was designated as residency time. I spoke to the department chairs and sent a message to the staff in each department explaining that my residency was a chance for me to learn more about the curriculum, different teaching styles, and see the students in action. I also made a point of saying that if there was something in particular that a teacher wanted me to see or do, that they should let me know. I was more than happy to offer up an extra set of hands or co-teach. I also included in my message that if they preferred that I did not visit their classroom, they just needed to send me a note and I would honor their request.

Nervous but excited, I started my first residency. My first department was physical education. They are a fun, welcoming group of teachers who made a point of clearing an extra desk in their office for me. Instead of using my office as my home base, I spent the week in the PE office. I dressed the part and participated in PE activities. I played pickle-ball, ran on the track, meditated with the yoga class, attempted to walk on stilts, and was the victim in need of rescue from the pool in the lifeguarding class. I got to talk to the teachers about the joys and frustrations of their day to day responsibilities. I got to interact with the kids and ask them their favorite or least favorite parts of their PE classes. The week was hectic and busy but it went by so fast. I found myself feeling sad to say goodbye on Friday but also was buzzing with ideas for how the PE teachers could be integrating technology in order to help their students achieve their goals.

Me, after getting saved by lifeguarding students.

On to the next department!

The following week I was in the English department, which has an entirely different dynamic, as you would expect. They too were welcoming and made space for me in the office. I popped in and out of classes at every level and saw a staggering number of teachers and students. I read out loud in one class that was reading a play and needed an additional person to take a part. I sat in on writers’ workshops, listened to students debate various topics, saw student-led presentations, chatted with teachers about books they were reading, and saw the students coming in and out of the office so they could meet with their teachers.

The weeks continued. In each department I made a point of walking into classes with nothing, both physical and emotional. I wasn’t there to take notes or check email. I was also careful to leave any preconceived notions of what the class might be like at the door. In most of the departments, the teachers took full advantage of my being there. In between classes they asked questions and we began to plan together. There was another interesting discovery that I made as the weeks progressed; I was beginning to connect teachers across disciplines. Terminology that I heard in geometry was also being used in PE and art. Writing skills that were being taught in English were being reinforced in science and social studies. I spoke to the teachers about what I saw and heard in other classes and they were interested in working together.

During the weeks of my residencies I often came home exhausted and with tons of work to do because I couldn’t get much else done during the day, but it was entirely worth it. Students started to recognize me and the kids who I had played pickle-ball with were now happy to have me take a look at their chemistry experiment. Teachers who initially thought my job was entirely technology focused were beginning to understand that I wanted to be more than just someone who could show them where to click and I was starting to be invited to course team meetings.

From having this residency experience, I feel as if I have an understanding of my school and a perspective that few if any other staff members have.  I know what the flavor of each department is and that helps me immensely in my work with them.

As a teacher, one of my biggest complaints about administrators was that they were out of touch with what it is like to be in the classroom. I still teach one class of my own, but the residency plan has continued past my first year. What I thought was a solution to an issue in my first year, has become standard practice for me. I even have staff asking me when I’m going to come back. At this point in the year, when my residency schedule is over, I am still all over the building working with our staff. But there is something special about living in each part of my school, even if it is just for a short period of time.

As I speak to other administrators now I always say- if you really want to know your school you have to live there!


Teachers- Here is your (digital) back to school survival tool kit for a fantastic year.


back to school conceptual creativity cube
Photo by Pixabay on

I know several kindergarten teachers who give parents a back-to-school survival kit. It’s got those big pencil grips the kids need but often lose, important dates and phone numbers for the school year, and of course it has a packet of tissues.  As they are busy packing up these kits it got me thinking about what would be in my own kit.  While I do have a box of tissues in my office, most of my survival tools are digital. As teachers, we often talk about how challenging it is to keep up with the pace of the school year while maintaining a sense of balance in our lives. We need to be mindful of taking care of ourselves in order to be the best for our students. There is a reason why you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others!

Gear up with these digital tools and you’re sure to survive (and even thrive) this school year.

  1. Mindfulness/Meditation Apps. Mindfulness and meditation have been around forever, so why is it that we are just now realizing the benefits? I don’t know. I do know that I can’t do it by myself and there are lots of fantastic apps that will guide you so you can be your calmest, most centered self in your classroom, at home, on the phone with parents, at faculty meetings, etc.  My two favorites are Calm and Omvana.  I’m currently using the free versions of both of these apps. They both offer guided meditation and mindfulness tracks of varying lengths and for a wide variety of purposes. I have even been using them for sleep. School hasn’t started yet and I’m already having those crazy classroom dreams!
  2. Exercise. A great compliment to mindfulness and meditation is exercise. I love my gym but sometimes my crazy schedule just doesn’t allow for me to make it in. Work off those extra calories from the snacks in the teacher’s lounge with these easy to use fitness apps. Seven  is a high intensity interval training app that requires no equipment, besides a stair to step up and a chair for dips. It is a seven minute workout and you can decide how many cycles you want to do. I didn’t believe it until I tried it but it is legit. I love to sweat but I also know the value of yoga and I often struggle to make it to class. The Daily Yoga app is remarkably good. The instructions are easy to follow and you are watching a video of an actual person demonstrating the poses. There are lots of “classes” to choose from and they very by length so you can decide how long you can handle.
  3. Organize and Prioritize. Long ago I lost the ability to keep track of my to-do lists in my head. I love a good sticky note but I don’t keep them with me and they don’t jump out and bite me when a task is suddenly time sensitive. I am a fan of GSuite tools in general but Google Keep is an often underutilized and underestimated tool that every teacher should know about. Think about a sticky note that can remind you on a certain day and time or even at a specific place. Imagine a sticky note that you can share with multiple people and they can add items without needing to be in the same place at the same time. Google Keep is a collection of digital sticky notes that can be color coded. Images, links, voice notes, to-do lists with checkboxes, and even drawings can all be added and connected with your google account so you can access them from anywhere.
  4. Communicate and Collaborate. Teaching can sometimes feel isolating. Sure, you’re in a classroom full of kids, but you might not actually have an adult conversation all day unless you happen to find time to run to the bathroom and you also run into a colleague at the same time. Spend 10 minutes a day on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and follow the educational hashtags and leaders of your choice. I am partial to Twitter and have an account that I use only for education. Stay away from the other social media noise and focus only on one or two hashtags that get you excited. If you’re new, confused, or overwhelmed by this idea, take a look at this post by on the complete guide to Twitter hashtags for education.  Feel free to follow me, @LisaBerghoff, and I can help guide you through it. Making these connections outside of your building is important because it can help you gain perspective and also give you insight and ideas that you have not thought of. Spend ten minutes a day and see what happens.

With these digital tools, I’m ready to start the new school year and not lose my sanity.

What’s in your back-to-school survival kit?


*I was not financially or otherwise compensated for this post.

What We Really Mean When We Say “What’s Best For Kids” And Some Alternatives For Your Next Meeting.

Best by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

This is a phrase that comes up quite often in school meetings where important decisions are being made. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the scenario, let me give you a quick snapshot. There is a group of adults, usually sitting around a table, faced with a tricky situation. One example of this would be how, where, and exactly when to administer state testing. There isn’t really a perfect answer to this situation but it must be decided. Many options are tossed around. Eventually, someone says something to the effect of: well, it seems that option B is really what’s best for kids because (fill in the blank with any rationale you want here). Once that phrase, “what’s best for kids”, enters the room, it’s pretty hard to make a change. After all, who wants to argue with what is best for kids? Satisfied, everyone agrees on option B and then the group moves on.

Now, this process is not inherently bad. The conclusion that is reached very likely could be what is best for many of the students. But this loaded phrase, “what’s best for kids”, is starting to pop up all over the place and when I hear it, it gives me pause.

As a 23 year special education teacher, I am hyper aware that my differently-abled students do not fit the typical mold. However, in my latest role in instructional technology, where I get the opportunity to see a wide variety of classes. I am becoming cognizant of the fact that there isn’t actually any mold at all. All children, teenagers, learners, educators, brains, etc. are dramatically different. 

When “what’s best for kids” is used, how are we defining “best” and exactly which “kids” are we referring to? I believe that it does help us as educators to categorize students. I can’t think of any other logical reason why we would do it. Our brains need  to make some sense of the diversity that we see in our classrooms. I don’t think educators mean any harm when we try to figure out who belongs where and what types of kids are showing up in our care each day. I do think that we have a group of students in mind and when we think of what is best for them we are conjuring up the path of least resistance for them.

I also believe that we do all of our students a huge disservice when we allow this to happen. Yes, it makes it easier on us adults, but as I often tell my husband, this is not about us. (Actually, I tell him “it’s not about you!”)

For those of you who find yourselves in these meetings and conversations, here are some alternative statements and questions  to “What’s Best For Kids”.

  1. What student voices are missing here?  Yes, students can give their opinions. It doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal, just think about who you are not thinking about and reach out to them in the most appropriate way you can. Or, reach out to their teachers or their parents. You can do some research without misleading everyone into thinking it’s up to them.
  2. What does this look like in the short term and the long term? Often, we’re looking for the immediate solution and the quick fix in the moment. I get it, we have a million fires to put out and can’t process all day long. If you take one moment to ask about what this looks like in the long game, it might give you a new perspective on how best to put out the fire in front of you at that point in time.
  3. We need to clarify the “why”.  Let’s be more specific in our communication than- this is in the best interest of our students. Staff, students, and parents deserve a little more. Of course not everyone is going to be in agreement with every decision, but at least they will know where you are coming from. Building those strong relationships and trust will lead to understanding and respect.
  4. Our lens for what is best here is… If you are going to talk about what is best, make sure everyone is on the same page in understanding what that means. Depending on the situation at hand, you may need to look through a new lens in order to make an informed decision.


The Making Of The Perfect Password

With the expansion of technology in every aspect of our lives, from shopping to banking, to photo sharing, it becomes more and more important to stay on top of your security game. One of the most basic things we can do to protect our digital data is to create strong passwords.
We all know this but how many of us actually do it?
There are a number of valid excuses including:
  • I can’t remember a different password for everything I d
  • o online.
  • It’s too hard to keep track of the requirements for different sites.
  • It is so time consuming to change my password all the time.
  • I don’t think anyone would actually want to hack my information.
  • My passwords are strong enough.
Let’s first take a look at what constitutes a strong password.
Strong passwords are made up of Upper and Lowercase Letters, Numbers, Special Characters, Nonsense Words, and are Lengthy. 
How are we supposed to keep track of all of that?  You can create your own algorithm, or set of rules, to create strong passwords that you will always remember and NOT need to write down. (please don’t write down your passwords).
Here’s how it works.
1. Start with a base word. Choose any word that you like. For example, I’m going to use the word MOIST because so many people hate that word!
2. Turn your base word into a nonsense word. I will turn moist into molisat because it has my name in the middle.
3. The site that I am logging into requires at least  8 characters in the  password so I’m going to put the number 7 in front of it. I will always use one digit below the requirement. My password at this point is 7molisat.
4. Now I need to add special characters. The site that I’m logging into is a .com site. I will use $ for all .com sites. Also, it’s a work related site. I’m going to add @ for everything dealing with work. I’m also going to add _ in between the characters.
5. My final password is now 7molisat$_@
How do I know if this is a strong password? I can put it in How Secure Is My Password to test it. The site will tell you how long it will take a computer to hack your password. According to the site, it would take a computer 5 years to crack this password. I think  I can do better. By adding another 7 at the end, it now says it would take 200 years.
You can create an algorithm that works for you.


Don’t Just Watch,

Engage, With EdPuzzle

I am definitely dating myself here, but I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I used to love watching the beginning of the show, after he changed out of his suit jacket and into his sweater and after he changed into his sneakers, he would talk about what he was up to that day. He would look right into the camera and ask us questions like: Do you ever wonder how pencils are made? or, Have you ever planted a seed? He would pause for a moment, giving us kids a chance to think about the answer. Sometimes my sister and I would even be compelled to answer out loud. Watching Mr. Rogers was more than just a passive exercise in consumption of content. He was a master at getting us to pause, reflect, and even respond.
Since we have become a 1:1 chromebook school, with each student having their own device, teachers are utilizing more and more video in their lessons. As our students are watching videos, we want them to interact with the content. We want them to reflect, be thoughtful, and make connections. In short, we want to turn a video into a lesson.
EdPuzzle is a platform where you can turn any YouTube (or other) video into your next lesson. It is super simple to set up, the analytics tell you if your students are interacting with the video, and it is easy to share lessons with colleagues. Also, I should mention that it is FREE! Another bonus is that it works seamlessly with Google Classroom.
According to EdPuzzle, more than 84% of students use YouTube to help them with homework. The nice thing about videos is that they allow students to learn at their own pace. They can pause or re-watch videos, which they cannot do during your class. Using video in this way allows students to have some control over their learning.
Here is how EdPuzzle works.
Step 1:  Upload or choose a video. Built into the EdPuzzle platform is a whole list of places to find great educational videos including YouTube, Khan Academy, National Geographic, TED, etc. You then have the opportunity to crop the video. If you have a long video, you can easily crop it so your students will only see a portion of it.
Step 2: You can add an audio track to the video. If there is something that you want to explain in your own words, you can record it right in EdPuzzle.
Step 3: Now you have an opportunity to add audio notes. For example, you can add an introductory comment that will show up before the video begins.
Step 4: At this point you can add questions to the video. As your students watch the video, it will pause and your questions will pop up. You have the option of adding open-ended questions, multiple choice questions-if you choose this option you can make an answer key and it will auto-grade for you, or just insert a comment which can have a link, an image, an equation, or text.
Step 5: Once you have your video lesson set up, you can assign it to your class. It will automatically assign in Google Classroom or you can give your students a link directly to the video. You can assign it with a due date and you can also check a box that will prevent students from skipping ahead in the video. When you assign it to a class, you can track student answers, see who viewed the video and how many times they viewed it.
Are you using video in your classroom? What tools are you using? Go ahead and post in the comments section and share what is working for you.


If This Then That… Do More With Your Apps And Devices

If This Then That… Do More With Your Apps And Devices

Do you ever wish you could clone yourself?

I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to streamline, be more efficient, make better use of my time, and get more done without adding hours to the day. It seems impossible. There are always emails to respond to, Twitter feeds to check, weather reports to look at, photos to catalog. Now that I have found IFTTT, I almost feel like there are two of me:)
IFTTT stands for If This Then That and it is a free platform, launched in beta back in 2010,  that helps you do more with your apps and devices. It uses a formula called an “applet” that connects a service (everything from email, Twitter, Facebook, Time Magazine, Fitbit, etc.) to a “trigger” or a condition and then another service. I know it’s tricky to understand at first but this service has amazing possibilities. I worked with a teacher who was teaching an outdoor adventure-type of physical education class. He wanted a collection of his students’ photos on their camping trip and he wanted a way for them to comment and share. He had them post to Instagram using a specific hashtag he created. He used IFTTT to automatically upload the photos with that hashtag to his class blog. AMAZING!

Here are 5 examples of applets that already exist that you might find interesting.

1. If you get an email with an attachment, then it will save to your Google drive. This applet can be

helpful when you are trying to organize attachments that you get via email. This applet will automatically save those attachments for you. Once the applet is active, you don’t need to do anything except enjoy your great new organization system!
2.  Sometimes the best information comes not from the conference, but from the tweets sent out using the conference hashtag. But who has time in the day to load,
look at, and read all of those tweets. They come fast and furious once the conference gets going. This applet will automatically load tweets with a specific hashtag to a Google spreadsheet. You can look at them when you have time or just save the spreadsheet for future reference.
3. I happen to love quotes! I use them in my classes with students and I share them with friends and colleagues. I don’t always have time to look at or save the quote of the day from BrainyQuote. This applet automatically archives quotes for you in a Google spreadsheet which is automatically saved in your Google drive.

4. Not sure what to do with all of those photos on your camera roll? They are taking up space on your phone. This applet will automatically upload your camera roll to your Google drive. Automatic storage solution! I also happen to take a lot of screenshots on my phone. There is another applet (bonus) that will save those screenshots into their own folder.
5. This is one of my favorites. Every day at 6pm, or whatever time you specify, the weather report will be automatically added to your calendar. Never get stuck without your umbrella again!

Ok, hopefully you get the idea here. These are just a very few of the many, many applets that IFTTT has to offer. If you don’t see what you are looking for you can easily create your own. IFTTT walks you through how to make your own applet by connecting your services and devices by a trigger. If you are someone who uses any social media, there are many applets to help you streamline those posts. There are applets for voice assistants like Alexa or OK Google. I highly suggest that you take a look at the applet collections by clicking here. 
Are you using IFTTT? Post in the comments below and let me know what applets you have activated.


Google Forms Turned Up A Notch! Password Protect and 4 Other Amazing Google Forms Tricks

Google Forms Turned Up A Notch!

Password Protect and 4 Other Amazing Google Forms Tricks

Google forms are arguably the most transformative edtech tool in use today. They can be used for so many purposes. From submitting assignments, formative and summative assessments, and good old fashioned surveys,  to taking attendance at club meetings and opinion polls, Google forms are widely used by both teachers and students. It’s no wonder, they are simple and fast to create and user friendly for the responders. The team at Google has been making a few adjustments to Google forms that you might not know about.  Some features are still being rolled out.

 Sit tight because these 5 tips might make your head explode!

1. Password Protect Your Form With Response Validation

Don’t want just anyone to be able to access and complete your form? No problem, you can create a “password” by using response validation.  This one isn’t really so new but many people don’t know about it.
Here’s a pictorial of the 3 steps to follow:
1.Just click the three dots next to the Required tab and click response validation. Make sure you are in short answer mode. Don’t forget to make the question required.
2. Here is where you can set the parameters.
3. For a password, set it to “Text” “Contains” and then enter the password EXACTLY how it must be entered to use.  Where it says “Custom Error Text”  write in something like- wrong password, try again.

2.  New Question Type: The Checkbox Grid

This new type of question option allows your respondents to choose from multiple options in a table. This is really helpful for things like finding meeting times. You set the rows. The example here shows the days of the week. You then set the columns. The image here shows one with class periods on it.
Here is what the checkbox grid looks like to the respondent. I could see this being used in many ways for multiple disciplines. I’m thinking characters and traits, equations and properties, figures in history and events. I know you will put this one to good use!

3. File Upload Capabilities:

Finally! Our suggestions have been heard and Google has added the ability for respondents to upload a file into the form. When you add a question, just choose “file upload”. You will see the options below. Everything from an image, PDF, video, audio file and more. You can have them add multiple files and set the maximum size allowed.

4. Give Feedback In Quiz Mode:

Of course you know that Google forms now has quiz mode where you can assign points and even give an answer key. The form will grade itself! If you set the grades to be released manually, the email addresses will automatically be collected AND you can give feedback within the quiz. When your students get their grades, they will see the feedback you left for them within the questions.
Here is what the quiz settings look like:

5. Set Preferences that will apply for ALL of your forms!

Are you sick and tired of marking every question as required? Well now you can set preferences for your forms. You can automatically collect respondent’s email addresses, mark all questions required, and even preset point values for quiz questions. Once you set your preferences, that will be the default setting for all of your forms. Click the three dots in the upper righthand section of your screen and open Preferences.
Here is what the preferences options look like:

Coming Soon! Look for Intelligent Response Validation.

How are you using Google forms?
Go ahead and post in the comments below.
Want to work on these together? I’m happy to work with you and show you how to use these features in a way that makes sense for you and your classroom.

Teachers Meet Quizizz! You’re Welcome:)


Quizizz: Fun, Engaging, Multiplayer Classroom Quiz Games and Yes, Students Can Play From Anywhere!

I’ll admit that I can be a sucker for bells and whistles.  I love toys and games and fun in the classroom if they are used in a purposeful way.  When students come back and visit years after graduation, it’s the funny, silly activities that they remember and connect with most.  Do any students come back and say “Remember that time when we sat in rows quietly and took notes?” I recently led a workshop and asked teachers from various schools to describe what their classroom looks like when their students are truly engaged.  Words like “active”, “participation”, “loud”, and “excited” came up as the teachers thought about a time in their classroom when students were engaged. Of course, the topic of Kahoot often comes up during these types of discussions.  Remember the first time you did a Kahoot?  You will absolutely not get that kind of response when you assign a worksheet.  That’s because tools like Kahoot are engaging and fun by design.  They allow students to participate in a way that does not require them to push too far out of their comfort zone, but still makes you feel like you are playing a game and taking a risk.  One of the most common questions that comes up with Kahoot is whether or not students can participate in these fun quiz games on their own or from home.

That is why I am thrilled to share Quizizz with you.
Quizizz is  a free, online tool that allows you to create classroom game show-like quizzes.  Similar to  Kahoot, the students have questions and  up to 4 options for responses.  You can create your own or use one that has already been created.  You can even create your own quiz but then steal collaboratively take advantage of individual questions that other teachers have made and put them into your own quiz. There are several key features that make Quizizz different from Kahoot.  First, you can adjust the timer from 5 seconds to 15 minutes of time allowed to answer a question, or you can adjust the settings so the question timer is off completely. You can play the games live during class but allow students to play at their own pace because the entire question shows up on the students’ screens.  The way Quizizz works is such that you can play at your own pace but still feel like you’re playing against your classmates.  Quizizz also has a feature that allows you to assign the quiz for homework. There is a  calendar feature to set the days that the quiz is open and give your students the Quizizz code to join your quiz. It also has a meme generator that will give the students instant feedback by way of funny kittens and silly graphics. Another feature of Quizizz is that when students finish playing, they get valuable data showing how they did on each question.

When your students first log in at, they will enter the game code and their name.  In order to effectively grade the quiz, I suggest mandating a naming convention so that students must enter their first name and last initial or some other standard format so you will know who is participating.  The students are then assigned an avatar (mine was an adorable sheep with glasses) and then are prompted to proceed.  As students are answering the questions, they are given immediate feedback on how they did on each question.  Once they are done, they can see how they did on all of the questions and they can go back and review the questions.

As the teacher, you can pull up a “report” that shows the percentage of students who answered each question correctly.  You can also click on individual students to see how they did.  The reports page gives a very easy to read graphic so you can quickly see which of your students need more instruction. This type of formative assessment is quick and easy to put together, fun for the students, and very helpful you teachers as we make instructional decisions.

Quizizz can be used at any point during instruction.  You can then show the questions in slide show mode so you can explain and walk through the most missed questions.
Want to see more?  Here is a one minute video walk through of Quizizz.

You’re Welcome!

What are some of your favorite tips and tools for classroom engagement?  Share in the comments section below.

Easy On The Eyes! FTT Bee Line Reader

Easy On The Eyes! Read More In Less Time With Bee Line Reader

@Lisa Berghoff     @Joe_EdTech

This is a cross-post from Giant Ed Tech blog: 
In the past several years there has been a giant push for educators to have a better understanding of literacy skills.  We know that reading is imperative for learning and we know that comprehension plays a major role in multiple subject areas.  However, certain aspects of reading that often get overlooked are fluency,  decoding speed, and tracking ability, especially when dealing with reading digital text.  As more and more of our text is presented in digital format, it is necessary for educators to explore ways to help our students follow what they read with increased speed and decreased eye strain.
Bee Line Reader makes reading faster and easier by making a color gradient that guides your eyes from the end of one line to the beginning of the next.  I have been using the Bee Line Reader for 2 weeks and this simple tweak does seem to be helping me with both focus and eye strain.  The Bee Line Reader is an extension that can be found in the chrome web store.   You can use it as much as you want for free for 30 days. After that, you can continue to use it 5 times per day for free or upgrade to the pro version.
I believe that the Bee Line Reader can benefit all of our students, but it might be a game changer for our kids with dyslexia, ADD, or students  who struggle to decode.
Here’s the explanation of how it works, while using the Bee Line Reader:

Free Tech Tool Tuesday – Canva

Easily Create Beautiful Designs and Documents with Canva

This post has been cross posted with Giant Ed Tech, written by Lisa Berghoff

I talk to so many teachers who say “Oh, I’m really not a tech person”.  Of course those of us who are into growth mindset understand that all that really means is that it will take time, hard work, and perseverance to improve on those skills.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m REALLY not a design person. The part of people’s brains that makes sense of space and where things go in a room, on a page, or even clothing on a body just doesn’t seem to be present in my brain.  I do, however, enjoy using tools that make it seem like I am a design person because I can still create amazing images even though I’ve had a little help.  I also understand the importance of visuals in the classroom and if you’re going to use them, the quality needs to be fantastic.

Think about your students.  You probably have some amazingly creative students and you probably have some students who cringe at any sort of artistic project. We know that students learn best when they have multiple opportunities to work with new information in different ways.  Therefore, we often ask our students to create presentations but we don’t give them information about basic principles of design and so we end up looking at powerpoint presentations that are filled with tiny text or images that crowd the screen.  That is why I’m excited to introduce you to

Canva allows you to create presentations, social media graphics, online posters, magazine covers, documents, marketing materials, etc. that look fantastic with very little experience in the world of design.  The website is free (there is also an ipad app) and there are thousands of free open source images to use, as well as some options for purchase.   Of course you can always use your own images and easily drag and drop them right into your Canva design.

Canva was founded by Melanie Perkins, who was teaching graphic design programs at the University of Western Australia.  When she realized that many of her students struggled with the basics on tope of trying to learn complicated programs, she decided to create an online tool that would allow new students to experience success with less frustration.

Screenshot of Canva Design School

The drag and drop format of Canva makes creating professional looking visuals straightforward and non-threatening.  There is also a “design school” tab with tutorials and teaching materials intended for classroom use. I managed to successfully navigate three of the basic interactive tutorials in about 15 minutes. The beginner’s challenges  highlight basic principles such as the benefits of color and the idea that less is more.  Some of these may seem obvious to you, but to me (and many of your students) it was helpful to see and interact with the examples to observe the differences in design.  The Canva blog is fascinating and covers topics such as Powerful Examples of Visual Propaganda, and Build Your Brand: How To Choose The Right Fonts. 

I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to check out Canva.  You can easily create wonderful visuals to use in your teaching, or have your students get creative and share with you, each other, or the world.  How do you use the power of visuals in your classroom?  Post in the comments section below.

Canva image created by Lisa Berghoff