Thursday, December 8, 2016

Caitlin Tucker's Blended Learning Model

One of the people I follow on Twitter is teacher Caitlin Tucker who has a great library of what is meant by blended learning and how a teacher can implement it in the classroom.  Above is one on creating a flipped classroom.

Here is a summary of all the videos. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Map Biases

When we work with students we have to remember that as hard as we try, we will still have biases or at least use some.  Maps come with lots of choices.  Short of using a globe, we are going to distort the land or ocean masses.  This short video is excellent in his visual display of the different maps.   If you teach world history or like to see the world a bit differently, this will be useful video for your class.

One thing to make this relevant is that Google uses the Mercator map with its maps.  So every day we are seeing a bias that most people are unaware about. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Blended Learning or Technology Integration

My county is moving to one to one, but has been clear that it is not meant as a way to just digitize paper.  So this video does a nice job of explaining the differences between technology integration and what is known as blended learning, which, in part, allows for collaboration between students to reach mastery. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

How to Map a Network Drive

I am sharing some items with our teachers on our network drive. If you ever needed to know  how to do it, it is above. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to Make a Playlist in YouTube

You will probably have a time when you will need to stockpile YouTube videos to either share with others or so you can easily find them later to remind yourself how to do something.

Above is a video explaining how to make such a playlist.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Embed Remind Texts in Your Blackboard Shell

Another question at the in-service was how to embed Remind texts (use to text one way reminders to students) into the announcement section of Blackboard.  Above is a short video showing this.  Have at it!

Remind for Your Students

I just did a couple of classes for teachers.  One of the questions was how do you sign up students for Remind.  Above is a video detailing how this is done.

Remind is used to text students and parents about homework, tests, and all kinds of information you would want to send your pupils.

The video below shows how you use Remind to create texts.

Monday, August 29, 2016

How to Flip Your Classroom

One of the schools, Chantilly, is going one to one this year.  As part of that the teachers will be redoing how they teach.   One of the ways they are looking at is flipping.  So I was asked to teach some presentations on it.  You can follow everything I teach as all of my links and videos will be on this page.

 We will start by taking a survey at
  • We will be learning how to create a short flip (defined) using Screencastomatic and what images, slides, short video and information might go into it.  You can also make them using the Snagit extension here (and here is how to use it)
  • discuss that you can always use others' videos such as (history and science, math and grammar)
  • contemplate how to make sure teachers are watching the video in part using a Google Drive form or even to how to make your own YouTube playlist (2:20 in this video)
  • use Remind (resources) to literally remind them to view the video. 
  • discuss how flipping a meeting/classroom allows for one on one discussions between the class leader and the pupil.  
  • and even how to use Tinyurl to customize a link to a video
  • If you want more resources they can be found here and here
Some examples might include flipping an economics course and then give a problem set (and even flipped answers - notice some are linked to one minute videos) or how to write an essay or an introduction to the electoral college and a related assignment to predict the election results.
All of the steps above can be found in much more in depth by reading my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

An Open Letter to Students Returning to School

So I love Hank and John Green's Crash Course, which is a series of subjects in the "flipped" class format.  One of the things I used to ask my students, is why did the state legislature insist that they go to school.  This video, in three short minutes, does the trick - in case you want some help.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Favorite Book Site

There is never enough time for me to read all the books (much less Twitter, blogs, news sites, etc.) that I want to.  Another problem is finding all the right ones for me.  But one incredible site for me is Jeff Schechtman's "Specific Gravity" site that is filled with all kinds of non fiction books.  

Schechtman covers so many topics.  One hot one in my district is project based learning - so you know his suggestion (above) is going on my list.  But other recent suggestions are one on Patty Hearst, how the world is accelerating in so many different facts, a book on the Middle East and on and one every few days with a new one.  Each includes a summary and an author interview. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Blendspace from TES to Showcase Student Work

TES Teach with Blendspace (Blendspace was recently bought by the British education company TES) is a cool way to present your lessons for your students or alternatively for your students to do the same for you.

Below, for example is one you can use in teaching geometry. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

How to Assess the Reading Level of a Document, Book or Webpage

This is not the first time I have blogged about reading levels as you can see here.   Most newspapers are written on elementary and middle school reading levels.   It is important to assess texts for their levels of reading and then to test students to know who needs additional help to be able to read at grade level.

I received an email yesterday about a new test that is call Jellymetrics that allows you paste in text and see the different levels (since there are a variety of reading tests).

So, for example, I put in Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech from last night and found out that most 9th graders, if not middle school students should be able to read it.  The nice thing is that each of the types of testing ways is linked to its explanation.   As you can see the most used one, Flesch-Kincaid rates the speech as being on a fifth grade level.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Tweet in Just a Few Minutes

If you were to read my book, Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction, I have an entire section on using Twitter to improve your teaching.  But if you want to very quickly learn how to set up an account and Tweet, watch the short video above. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Duplichecker to Avoid Plagiarism

So with all the flack that Melania Trump has received for plagiarizing Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech, it is amazing that it wasn't run through a scan to check for copying as most teachers do automatically.   But if your student wants to do the same before turning something in, they (or the teacher for that matter) can use Duplichecker which looks for other online resources and compares them with a student paper.  In two seconds Melania could have avoided this mess - but now you and your students can for free.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Blackboard Collaborate

Here, in just seven minutes is everything you ever needed to know about Blackboard Collaborate which our teachers use to collaborate with our online students.  This video goes rapidly through many of the tools and shows them as it works through.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

New Educational Search Engine from Amazon

I just received this tip from Caitlin Kimak saying that Amazon is now in the education business and has a search engine called Amazon Inspire for ways to help your classroom.  You can use the video above to help you.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

Embed Links in a Google Calendar

Thanks to Rich Hoppock for the heads up on this one.  It shows the simple code for how to put a link to an item and add a title to it in a Google calendar.  Don't be intimidated by the word code as it is very simple to copy what you need. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why Haven't We Changed Our Educational System?

My school system is spending a lot of time rethinking how we should educate our students as we move to a one to one solution.  The video above by Ken Robinson looks at the history of our school system and asks why we are still largely teach in an industrial factory type of way when few of our citizens are preparing for such work.  It is worth the ten minutes to look at this if you haven't seen it yet. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Trello for Collaborative Work Projects

A couple of months ago the admin teacher in instructional services was shown how to organize our projects using many colored sticky notes.  Of course, I started searching for a way to do this virtually. Our crack team beat me to it finding Trello.  It is amazingly intuitive and allows you to add multiple members and each project that everyone is working on.  It allows easily allows you to see where everyone is in their project without having to send multiple emails and what not.

Above is a short tutorial showing you how to use it.  By the way, it's free! 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Learning, Finland Style

I have done a lot of studying about Finnish schools in the past few years (and am trying to find more on ones in Singapore).  Why you ask - because Finland and Singapore were no one's examples of fine school systems two decades ago.  But they figured it out and on most reviews are seen as #1 and 2 in the world.   Amanda Ripley's book "The Smartest Kids in the World" is an excellent in depth look at Finland.  For a quicker view watch this clip.  The principal has it correct.  If you have time between working,  you can process your learning and retain it better.  Imagine that - less homework equals better understanding and more learning (more found in "How We Learn" which looks at how your brain functions as you try to retain information.  But our highest level teachers in the US seem to think the more we pound the kids the more they will learn.  Michael Moore's new movie is definitely one I will be seeing when it comes out.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shepherding Online Studentxs

I am researching ways to work with online students who are not faring well in their classes.  This short video gives a nice summary of a "shepherding" method used to reach out to students using mentors (who sometimes can even be the student's teacher).

The one below is by George Mason University professor Jered Borup who is doing research on mentors for online students.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to Show a Portion of a YouTube Video

Have you ever wanted to show a portion of a video you find on YouTube rather than fumbling in class for the exact portion of it?  If you watch the top video you can create the url link very easily. Depending on the feed you have for YouTube, you can also do it right on YouTube (second video).

If you have a list of videos (as most teachers do), below is how you can do it right from your playlist.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Inforgraphic Creator

Thanks to Zak McNamara who found HubSpot that offers a number of digital opportunities for groups looking to market themselves.  But above it talks and shows what is meant by an infographic. They are free to create and would jazz up online communities/classes or student projects.   Here is where you get access to the templates. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blackboard Collaborate Tutorials

We use Blackboard Collaborate for our online student sessions.  The top video above shows how to use the most recent application of it.  If you are still using the older version, the video below will be helpful to you. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

How to Search the Internet

With so much knowledge at our fingertips we should be changing the way we educate our children to use their minds to solve problems rather than to regurgitate information that can readily be found online. But how to find information is a skill that can be taught.  Watch the video explanation above and then look at these lesson plans to teach to search, understand the results, narrow one's research, look for evidence and to understand how credible a resource is.

Thanks to Alice Keeler for the tip on the resource. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Google Classroom Apps

Google Classroom allows you to use apps alongside your work with your students.  For example if you go here you will see Kahoot (which allows you to play review games), Khan Academy (which has thousands of video tutorials), Class Dojo (which is a management tool for your classes) and so much more.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Google Classroom Tutorial

Above is a great video on how to use Google Classroom which is one way (Google Drive - see post below) to have students turn in their work.   Google Classroom allows teachers to create folders for their students, set completion dates, allow students to see graded work, send messages. It even now has a series of apps that you can utilize to help work with your students. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Interesting Infographic on Online Learnign

If you are looking for an interesting overview of the development of learning and now, online learning, the graphic is a quick way to do it.
The Future of Online Schools
Source: Online Schools

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Blendspace & a New Way to Create Assignments

Today I am going to be getting to Austin to attend the South by Southwest Education conference.  I am going to be spending some of my time there with TES (more on them later).  They recently purchased Blendspace which allows teacher to use a variety of resources to build digital lessons for their students such as the one I did above which I call "Predicting the Electoral College."  You can go to Blendspace and build your own very easily.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Google Drive Tutorial

Tomorrow I am helping a friend who is working with teachers at a school. So I am starting with the video above. One thing I would suggest is looking at this tutorial that I used this past summer.  It starts with a rationale and then goes into how teachers can use Google Drive, create videos and even where to find flipped videos. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Twitter for Your Professional Learning Network

Twitter is a place I go almost daily to learn more about how to do my job, connect with other educators and make posts to help others.

Watch the video above and it will tell you how to set up and use Twitter.  Some of the bigger players (not me, but you can follow me if you want) are listed below.  From them you will find lots of others to connect with and slowly your list of people you are following will expand.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Homework and Student Success

Someone one once told me that when teachers have their own kids it makes for them being better educators.  My penultimate principal happened to come into my life at the same time that my own children were starting to get lots of homework from their 5th grade teacher.   At the same time my county set our homework max at 10%, Dave (principal) wanted to have late work count for no more than 20%.  I accepted the 10%, but fought the 20%.  But Dave was persistent and personable and so I tried it.  Really I went all the way.  In three years I haven't given a late grade for an assignment.  But I also went from being a teacher who could give a fair amount of (sometimes pointless homework like reading notes) homework to, in my last year, someone who never game more than 30 minutes per AP class and less for standard ones.  In fact when I left the classroom one of my best student notes thanked me for "not hating homework and my life outside the school day."

So there are a lot of things to consider.  One is it unhealthy to have lots of homework an issue the NYTimes looks into and that many kids get three times the recommended rule for homework.  Many experts talk about the ten minute rule or ten minutes per year until high school when two hours is the max which is the rule in my county, but is hardly followed.  Furthermore this article and this one claim that more homework does not correlate with higher test scores.
So now I have taken a peripheral role in my county's attempt to not have more than two hours of homework a night.  Sure if you have six AP classes this is a tough mandate, but generally as with my ex-principal's new late policy it means rethinking how you teach students.

But not everyone believes there is too much homework.  This review finds that it is less a burden in standard classes and that there are even lots of parents who do not think there is enough homework.

Anecdotally I would say that AP/IB students have too much and that the lower levels have too little whether because the teachers didn't think the students would do it or rather because the students refused to do it so often the teacher gave up.

What is clear is that educators have to change the way they teach in the class and why they give homework.  Other than reading a book for English, reading isn't as good an assignment as it used to be especially since notes can readily be found online.  Furthermore class time should be used for letting students explore the learning have having the teacher facilitate that process.  Whether homework is necessary then would be left to if a student needs more help or can start with an overview of the next lesson.  Either way we need to repurpose our students' learning.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Simple Wikipedia for Quick Details

Wikipedia, in my mind, is one of the great innovations of the Internet age.  I know there are many people who disagree, but I have done extensive research on the way each site is maintained and have great faith in it.  Besides our students are going to use it regardless of how much teachers are against it.  But if I had one criticism of it, it is that it is too wordy for what we need in our classrooms.

Enter "simple Wikipedia."  Type in something you want to look up, such as Einstein and then "simple wikipedia" and you will get back a one page summary that even begins with a one hundred word mini summary and then provides links and summaries on the side.   So if you need more depth, you can go find it elsewhere.  But if you are looking for some quick details, it is better than Wikipedia.

What I love the most about this is that I found out about it from my daughter Madison. Isn't that the way it should work.  Teachers teach and then learn from their students in a symbiotic relationship. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Facebook as a Collaborative Teaching Tool

Schools are spending a great deal of time developing collaborative learning teams and while there are many advantages to them, they have some disadvantages. Notable disadvantage number one is that the team is undoubtedly small and rarely changes its members so your teachers probably get to know each other quite well and know each other's lesson plans.  But that can't be enough.

Enter Facebook.  There are many teacher groups for Advanced Placement (not as easy to find IB pages) educators.   All you have to do is enter, say "AP Physics Teachers.  Most of the groups are closed and will only give you entry if you send them a link from your school and give them an edu membership.  What you gain is an immediate group of educators who are driven, imaginative and willing to help.  Most people freely offer lesson plans and/or quickly respond to those who want new ideas.  From my experience they are rarely a place to vent (other than when AP US was undergoing its disastrous roll out of its new test last year.  Thus you are almost certain to find helpful resources and a new network of educators you can connect with on a regular basis.  A super collaborative team if you will.  Below are a few of them.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Protecting Children Online

My county has long had several people who have done exhaustive research before approving the use of websites requiring logins.  Indeed during all 6000+ posts of mine I do not think I have done more than a handful of them talking about this topic.  But two weeks ago my wife and I decided to finally give smartphones to our 8th grade daughters.  While we are still not allowing them to use social media, we also know that we will soon have to use an app to monitor their online presence - be it on a smartphone, their Chromebook, Kindle or their much less used iTouch.

So here is my first, I am sure, of many posts discussing protecting our students as told from the parents side of the equation.  First off a new blog I am just starting to follow is TechSavvyMamma written by a DC area mom who was an educator and technology expert.  She posts every two to three days.

Secondly, here is an amazing overview of so much of what parents need to know.  It starts with best practices (setting guidelines), goes through many of the most popular social media apps (Snapchat, Kik, Instagram, etc.).  It then shows how you can go to settings and set up parental controls as well as mention some of the best parental apps out there to protect kids.

Speaking of what apps to use for student protection, this site and this one are a start.

While school systems can certainly not promote one site over another, giving parents information about how to best deal with online predators, not to mention deviants from doing homework and being better prepared for school is an issue that many schools are now grappling with and so I will be posting on it from time to time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tech Conferences

On March 7th and 8th I will be at the South by Southwest Education conference in Austin.  Another conference that I have enjoyed is the ISTE one which this year is in Denver from June 26-29.  The key, if you can do so is to find someone else to pay for you.  For example I am doing work for TES (more on that coming later) and so they are paying my entry ticket.

So why bother?  Well first off you will meet lots of tech minded people like yourself and make some connections that you can work with when you return home.  Secondly there are lots of companies showing all of their latest wares and then, there are talks and demonstrations - literally hundreds of them.  

If you can't get the big ones, look for one close to home.  Here is a place to start. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

10 Hacks for Using Google Drive

So I have not used Microsoft Word in several year so if you are converting or have your students using it, this post on Google Drive should be quite helpful.

Thanks to my former administrator Chris Cashman for this one.  Here are "Ten Hacks for Google Drive."  One, above, tells you how to use notation in Google Drive for math or economics students. A second one tells you how to convert a Word doc to a Google doc; how to email the Google Doc to someone; how to edit offline (see video below); see earlier versions of a document; thype using your voice (my son's favorite one); open up a tab for research; create a table of contents; 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Doodle for Setting Up Meetings

I am starting consulting work with TES which has a lot of great free online services for teachers which I will log about later.  But for now we just set up our first meeting using Doodle.   Have you ever tried to set up a meeting and you spend a lot of time emailing back and forth.  Well Doodle is your free meeting time savior.  You simply create an online e-sheet, share it with your friends and they check off the dates and time they are available for a meeting.  So in a matter of minutes you can set up your next meeting.   Best of all is that you don't even need to set up an account to use it.   Here is an actual example that you can click on to see how it works. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tips for Online Classrooms

This is a pretty go list of tips for online educators.  It says you should start with sending our something in advance to help focus the class.  In class it says start with banter (I ask for activities my students have done recently), go to "housekeeping" and then get to the class and let students go into chat rooms as part of the class.  There are other tips online such as this, this, this and, this one that has 147 tips.

So for example last night my students started with the discussion as president of persuader so I sent out this Vox article beforehand.  Then we started with a discussion of what they did over our snow break and then we went over some of our midterm and finally went into the article (about 10 minutes into our hour) and my questions and activities for my students.

If you like these tips, you might want to follow Zoom on Twitter

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

OutWhiz for Help in Math and English

Outwhiz is a free online service for students and teachers where you can practice or (if you are a teacher) assign problems in math through Algebra I and in grades 1-6 in English.   It allows you to accumulate points so it provides a competitive edge for students when practicing. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quizlet for Assessment Review

So I knew I was onto something for students with Quizlet when my son ran through his flashcards twenty times in one night.  When I asked him why he had done it so many times, he said because his teacher had set it up as a game and he wanted to be the best in the class.  Using competition to get kids to study is a great idea.

Quizlet was started eleven years ago by a high schooler who was trying to figure out how to study for a test.  Boasting one hundred million users there are many different uses for it that you can have your students do:
  • Teacher or student can create their own set of flashcards
  • Teachers can then create their own classes which require no login for the students so they can play games (many different ones)
  • You can also just search for ones for your class.  You can also be specific such as typing in the name of your unit and state exam and it will pop up.  Generally the best ones are the top returns.  Then you can just take the link and give it to your students
The video above will help you do all of the above things. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rubric and FRQ Grade Converter

Converting Advanced Placement Free Response Questions (FRQ) scores to a percent out of a 100 is a pain.  So my colleagues, Rich Hoppock and Dan Maxwell, came up with this converter.  To use it download it and then re-upload in Google Drive (or perish the thought, Microsoft).  Once you have done that put the FRQ score in the yellow box in the upper right side and it will give you a percent score based on both 100 and 50.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

All Things Google w Alice Keeler

Alice Keeler has an amazing array of ideas that she is constantly sharing with educators about using Google Drive and Google Classroom which you can find on her webpage.

But she also shares lots of her ideas with short videos such as the one above which argues (and I agree) that we need to leave our comfort zone and try looking at different approaches to teaching.   Keeler also has a playlist for using Google Classroom.

For me the best thing that Keeler does is Tweet idea after idea on how to do all things Google.  Along with that she offers scripts (prewritten computer language which you can use with little or no training) and at the bottom of the page you will find apps that you can add to Chrome to more easily do some of the things she discusses such as mail merging using Google Drive.  This goes along with her book 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Does the Internet Work

The video above gives you a great tutorial of how the Internet works and does it in the first two minutes.  Then it looks at the role of others such as government.

The video below gives you a one minute history and then tells you how the Internet works.  Both are great to help you answer what is meant by the Internet. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to Create a YouTube Playlist

Whether you are a flipper or just want to hang onto a group of YouTube videos, creating a play list of your and other people's videos is a necessary part of your daily tasks.  The video above tells you how to do it.  It is also possible to have multiple categories as you can see on my playlist here.  As you can see in the video above, you can also use the YouTube search function to find a video you want to add to your library or you can just paste in a url which is better if you are making your own videos.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Talk Radio Podcasts in the Digital Age

I just found out about Talk Radio from a post on a Facebook page I follow called Teachers Throwing Out Grades.   First off know that there are many Facebook pages that can help educators, be they teachers or administrators.  Talk Radio "shares leadership stories, feature guest interviews and inspire you to lead for the change we need in schools for the digital age" and can be listened to at any time.

Just the fact that you are reading this blog post means you agree that we should continuously be learning and expanding our horizon.  So this site might help you.  For example some recent podcasts include: 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Accidentally Closed Your Tab or Webpages?

When my kids were little they used to get on my wife's laptop and accidentally close her webpages. While we solved this by giving them Chromebooks there are free ways to fix this problem as well.

First off if you close a tab and want it back just type "Ctrl + Shift + T" and the deleted tab will instantly reappear in Chrome and Firefox.  Here is how you do it in other browsers.

To be able to get back a closed browser just go into "Settings" and tap on the radio dial that says "continue where you left off."

If you have too many tabs open and your browser is slowing down, you might want to create a folder for some of your tabs.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to Make Your Own Flip & Tutorial Videos

Over the years I have made lots of video tutorial for my blog followers and flip videos for my students.  Every single one of them have been made using Screencastomatic.   You can purchase your own yearly subscription, but I have not only never paid, but also never even set up a free account. You don't need to since you can make the video and then just upload it onto YouTube.

Watch the video above and you will be able to see how to record, add you talking (or not) to the recording and to upload it - all in less than two minutes.  Go forth and make your own tutorials and teach lots of others.  In a later post I'll show you how to organize your YouTube video library.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Homework Reminders

When I want to quickly contact my online students, I use  It allows you to send a text without knowing their phone numbers.  Additionally you can set a time for it to be sent.  You can add a link and/or upload a document.  If you choose, you can also text individual students.  All of the texts are recorded and kept as long as you keep the class.

Above is a video giving you a great overview and here are several videos explaining how to use different parts of it.

If you use Blackboard, the video below shows you how to embed Remind texts into a Blackboard page.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Snow Days Online

So we have a potentially major snow storm coming to DC this week.  I am thankful that we have the technology to make up for not having school, esp. in classes like AP or IB ones where time can't really be missed and your students are more likely to do the work at home.  Of course my online students get to work no matter the weather.  So how can you get your brick and mortar students to work on a snow day.
  1. For my online kids I use Blackboard Collaborate so I would create a shell for the brick and mortar students as well and set an agreed upon time to meet which I reminded them about a few days before a snow storm. 
  2. If you don't have something like Blackboard Collaborate you could you a Google Plus Hangout live stream where you could send a link to your students and they could watch a live lecture (here's how).    You could then use Today's Meet to send a link to students and you could see their live questions.   You would be able to do this by splitting your screen
  3. You can also decide not to meet online and just send an assignment.  In either case I give them a flipped video to watch (such as above)and often a "problem set" for which I go over a few of them in the online session with them.  Sometimes I also make a video the night before when I know for sure we aren't having school so it is perfectly timed for the work we are doing. 
  4. I communicated with the kids by using Remind, (more on that coming in a post in a few days) Blackboard and even using my gradebook which has all of the kids' emails.  For the Remind message I used a shortened tinyurl ( which linked a Google Drive e-sheet so I didn't have to text the kids multiple times with the assignments. 
All of this means that you can keep to the somewhat demanding schedule you might have for AP/IB kids.  Unfortunately it doesn't work as well for kids who are not in those classes.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Using Twitter as a Teaching Method

So I have posted on using Twitter a number of times on my US Government Teachers Blog, but it is more than appropriate to discuss it with eLearning.  Sometimes the learning can't stay in the classroom and in those cases Twitter is a good substitute for a class discussion at home. Above is an example of when my students (and other teachers' students) have joined together to Tweet a debate (one tonight) and/or State of the Union.   It was the brainchild of Frank Franz and has worked many many times as find that the kids have a dynamic discussion during the exercise and have far more Tweets than the required number.
  • We pick a hashtag which our students include in every post.  It can be as simple as #schoolnamegovclass.  Here is what it looked like on last week's State of the Union.
  • What about the kids who don't have Twitter!  I generally use an editable Google Drive document, but one option I am using TodaysMeet which lets you set up a Twitter like screen that does not require a login/password.  
  • We require the students to make five comments during the debate and tell them that school rules apply (ie language, etc.).   
  • The teachers teach!  This means you might say that some candidates are already running very low on funds or that the polls are great, but the goal is to win delegates. Having more than one teacher in on the debate makes for a richer discussion.  
  • I use TweetChat (which can be synced to your Twitter account) so I can see the comments from the other students and easily enter in my own. Assume the kids can see all of the comments and know how to follow the discussion.  I also usually watch the debate/State of the Union on my laptop as well and split my screen as you can see from the video above. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Digital Resources from the DOE Ed Tech Dept.

A couple of years ago Richard Culatta, who is the Director of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education spent the day in my classroom and then brought me to a great event with Arne Duncan that night.  He has remained an approachable resource for me since then and now has a great page on the DOE site with videos for "Personalized Professional Learning for Future Ready Leaders."  One of those videos above discusses how districts can move to a one to one environment. It is a subject that is close to my heart as I wrote a practical guide for it call "Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction" which teachers can use to literally slowly or quickly move to one to one.  I even include a chapter on how an entire district made the move.  Both my book and the video above discuss how to move towards making the book a resource, not the only source of learning.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Blackboard Test Generators

If you use Blackboard as does my county, you can find a series of Blackboard test generators here and/or watch the video above.  These examples make it much easier to change a word document into Blackboard file. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Scripts for Shortcuts in Your Grading

Scripts are simple code that you can use to write a program.  For example if you go go to Alice Keeler's page on the topic you can see how to easily

  • take your student names and have it be able to email students; 
  • look at your student work and compare it to a rubric without spending lots of time going back and forth; randomly assign students to groups; 
  • create Google Drive folders for all of your students (assuming you don't use Google Classroom) 
  • and much more is on the link.  Keeler does a great job of showing, with simple images, how to implement the scripts. 
Keeler also has a great webpage and if you are serial Google Drive user like myself is an absolute must to be following on Twitter @alicekeeler

If you prefer video tutorials on scripts I was given a bunch by Claudia Pirouzan-Jones which you can find here.  One example from the link is the video above about Doctopus which tells you how to auto generate pre-made comments for student papers.

Flubaroo allows you to automatically grade multiple choice tests and fill in the blank questions which you can figure out using the video below. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Link Shorteners

I just got out of a chat with my online students and while we were in it I wanted them to be able to quickly copy and write on a document.  So since I do everything in Google Drive I shared a link with them.  But Google Drive document links are very long.  So I went to and gave it an easy name ( since it had an ad of Ellen D crying on it) and we got to work.

Another shortener is which gives you a window into which you put the link and then it comes out with a short link for you.

Now while tinyurl links will be around forever, you might want to have a shortener that you can save so you can use  It does require a login/password, but you can then go back later, find the link and use it for whatever purpose you need.

Now for fun if you have the shortened url and want the originating link you can go to Url Unshortener and it will give it to you. 

Diigo for Bookmarking and Sharing on the Cloud

If you were to see my new office, other than the walls, you would see that it is largely bare since all I have is on the cloud.  Part of the reason is because I use Diigo to save and categorize all of my sites which you can see here.  What I really like is that you can see what I have saved and then see others that have saved similar sites.  But you can also lock down a link so no one else can see it so you can save your passwords or save clues as I do.

The video above first gives an overview of what you can use Diigo for and then at 4:43 it begins to show you how to save sites and put them in categories. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An AP Lit Site to Follow

Twenty-five years ago when I became a teacher I was handed a book and shown my classroom. While I was given a mentor I am still friends with she and the others did little in terms of giving me content.  Now there is so much online (hence this site).  Just Google the type of teacher you are (hs social studies, ms art, etc. and you will be amazed what you find - and I will post in the near future.

I found this the other day at work - a site devoted to Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature.  It is called AP Lit Help.  Some recent posts that I liked include

Monday, January 11, 2016

Text Readers

Today at work we were discussing how our courses could be read to students who might have some issues with reading.  For those with Microsoft Word, there is a built in "Natural Reader" which you can find by going to your start button.  But for those (like me at home) who only have Google Drive, you have multiple options:

  • Add Speak It to your Chrome browser, outline the part of the page that you want read to you and then tap the icon on your browser and it will start.
  • Go to Natural Reader and paste in text and it will read to you. 
  • You can use WebAnywhere to type in a url, highlight text and have a webpage read to you.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

James Madison Fellowship

So I suppose this could be a brick and mortar post, but it could could be easily for eLearning.  One of the teachers, Doug Zywiol, from my former department won the James Madison Fellowship for Virginia last year.  It is a $24,000 scholarship towards a master's degree that will help in teaching the US Constitution.  So Doug, being a hybrid teacher is using it to learn as much as possible how to teach his content using online methodology and will end up with a M.A. in History.

In addition to taking courses they also have a summer program the first year and a great network of teachers to which you would join.

If you are interested in applying, here is the application.  Good luck. 

eLearning w Books & Beyond

So first off I think textbooks are incredibly boring and do not meet the needs of today's students. Think about it.  When you want to learn you first go to YouTube and search for a video.  Want to hang a picture, fix your car engine, make furniture, you name it.  But we continue to produce boring textbooks that challenge the student not to fall asleep.  Yes those in the humanities say we need our students to learn to read, but really name an adult - even a teacher - who reads textbooks for fun. Textbooks often turn off, especially in the humanities our learners rather than excite them which is what we want.  In other words if you want students to love reading, give them a fun diary entry, a novel, etc.

Now textbooks aren't all bad.  They are a good source of information from time to time and are a good resource.  But as we move our students online and to a a hybrid 1:1 environment, we want to offer our students a way to learn in the way that is best for them - not for the teacher.

So that is why I like CK-12 as a resource.  It is best for math and the sciences as those subjects offer the complete suite of learning.  For example, if you go here you can see that the student learning about angles can read a short description about angles, then, if necessary, watch a video; practice problems and then there is an interactive way to challenge the student.  So for me this is great.  If the student gets it after reading the text, then s/he is done.  If a video is all that is needed or is better than the text then the kid can stop there.  If the student wants practice then there are two ways to go about it.  Find a textbook that offers all of that AND IS FREE!

Finally all the learning can be done on one's smartphone as well.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Apply to be an AP Reader

Okay, so this isn't high tech eLearning, but you do want your teachers to be incredibly knowledgeable.  Back when I was a department chair, I was most proud of the fact that most of our AP teachers being selected as AP Readers.  When I would ask teachers to go to a reading, the first response was, "But the worst part of my week is when I have to grade AP FRQs."  But a reading does several things:

  • Trains the teacher in how to grade a free response question (FRQ) so they can train their students in how to write one effectively.
  • Trains the teacher to be able to grade more efficiently and quickly.  This is important as it will mean you can give more FRQs to your students during the school year and grade them to give back the next class period.
  • It is an incredible in-service for teachers.  Yes you get to see how to grade several FRQs, but you also learn the process of how they are created and best of all you gain a network of highly motivated teachers that you will collaborate with during the school year.
  • The College Board pays your flight, food, hotel and gives you an honorarium of about $1600.
Who gets accepted depends on the subject.  I have seen teachers be accepted in their first year of teaching the AP subject and others have to wait four to six years. The bottom line is that if you are interested, you should go here and apply.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Using Social Media to Conduct Classes After Hours

Several brick and mortar teachers are joining with my online US government students to conduct a class with Twitter during the State of the Union.  For English teachers who find that reading is best done in class, Twitter could be used conduct a classroom discussion as the "homework" part of the class.  Below are the steps explaining how to do it.
  • We pick a hashtag which our students include in every post.  It can be as simple as #schoolnamegovclass.  Here is what we used last year. 
  • We require the students to make three comments during the debate and tell them that school rules apply (ie language, etc.).   Our kids like to see that we are trending so they do far more comments (20-30) and stick around the entire debate.  
  • The teachers teach!  This means you might say that some candidates are already running very low on funds or that the polls are great, but the goal is to win delegates. Having more than one teacher in on the debate makes for a richer discussion.  
  • I use TweetChat (which can be synced to your Twitter account) so I can see the comments from the other students and easily enter in my own. Assume the kids can see all of the comments and know how to follow the discussion.  I also usually watch the debate/State of the Union on my laptop as well and split my screen as you can see from the video above.  
  • What about the kids who don't have Twitter!  I use TodaysMeet which lets you set up a Twitter like screen that does not require a login/password.  It really feels like Twitter and is a great alternative for younger students.   

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Exporting a Blackboard Test To Word

For those of you who want out of Blackboard (the Microsoft of platforms), one of the hardest things to move are tests.   A quick way that may work in most cases is on the video above, but here and here are guaranteed ways to fully convert a Blackboard file to a Word document.

Of course if you want to go the other way, here is a post on how to convert a Word document into a Blackboard test. 

A Simple Webpage to Tell People Who You Are

Recently I set up an webpage to tell you and anyone else going to my webpage or Twitter account a quick bio about myself.  It includes an image, links to social media; some hashtags to describe yourself, where you were educated. a link to something important like my book on individualizing education using technology.  It is also easy to adapt a new color and background. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Welcome to the eLearning Blog

After twenty-five years in the classroom today I am taking over my county's eLearning platform which includes 4000 students taking online courses year round.  It is an exciting prospect as department heads and our teachers are amazing and my predecessor started our online campus from scratch and built it into a force.

This blog follows my other ones (US History Teachers BlogUS Government Teachers Blog, Economics Teachers Blog and World History Teachers Blog) which are now being maintained by an amazing group of educators and I am sure will grow from their normal 60,000 monthly hits.  I will also continue to add when I have something of value.

This blog will aim to help those teaching and administrating online whether it is how to corral many teachers, find a vision, improve the learning platform, expand to new students, build a new course and so many other topics that I will be facing and embracing over the course of this new journey.   The goal is to help all those in all subjects and levels.

If you have posts you want me to add, please email me at or otherwise come back three four four times a week for each new post.  Alternatively you can also add "@kenhalla" to your Twitter feed. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Teaching is About Relationships Even in the Digital Age

I have long told teachers in the department where I used to head up that they need to call parents and even meet with them rather than just email them.  I used to say that it really isn't what you say in the those meetings, but rather that you show that you care.  From there a foundation can be built.

As you can see from the video above that is a short interview with Bill Gates of Lyon Terry, the 2015 Washington state teacher of the year, I am not the only one who feels this way.  Even though my students will now only be online, relationships still count.  Conversations on the phone still work. Working with the individual needs of the students still works whether it is a brick and mortar classroom or online.

The other telling thing that Terry mentions in the video above is showing students how to sift through the amazing amount of research online to come up with answers and I might add to ask new questions (which brings up this interesting video on teaching in the 21st century).

By the way I found this video and the accompanying post on Bill Gates' blog which started as a way to showcase the books he has read to add in many other things such as people he meets, ideas he is learning, etc. 

Friday, January 1, 2016


So in my soon to be new job as the eLearning Coordinator for one of the largest school districts in the US, I thought it might be prudent to update my rarely used LinkedIn profile.  But to do that, as always, I went to YouTube for a video to highlight how to use it.

Above is the video which begins with how to set up a LinkedIn account.  If you already have done that, skip to 12:26 in the video and watch the power of the site from looking for jobs, connecting with like minded individuals, finding out industry news, etc.