MPS iTech Weekly Newsletter

October 21 2020, Volume 1, Issue 4

Spotlight on Success

This week's Spotlight on Success highlights Woodrow Wilson's Mary Grace Cianci, a Mathematics Intervention teacher. A quite a few of her colleagues and administrators informed us that she is 'making learning work'.

We contacted Mary Grace, and after her initial surprise, she provided a very detailed response to our question below of how she is finding success using a Surface Pro laptop.

Do you have any words of wisdom or tips for your colleagues on how to be successful in this hybrid environment and/or integrating technology with your students?

The integration of technology has been a critical component of remote learning in the math intervention classroom this year. Students in HMH’s Math 180 intervention courses at Woodrow Wilson Middle have utilized technology tools the past couple of years through a powerful and engaging personalized software program. However, the direct teaching component of the program posed a challenge in our new blended learning environment. How could I create learning opportunities with all cohorts of students in a workbook-based teaching portion of my lessons?

The Surface Pro tablet has been utilized extensively in my daily live lessons. This tablet has empowered my teaching to transform my shared screens to include color-coding, highlighting, isolating texts, magnification, and other features. The use of color-based tools such as color-coding and highlighting text has been a widely used effective strategy, particularly with students with learning disabilities. The ability to quickly highlight information and isolate work areas on the screen has dramatically assisted my students with learning disabilities and language impairments to fully access the lesson tasks. Below is an example (figure 1) of part of a lesson that would be shared with students remotely.

Using my Surface Pro tablet and pen, I am able to snip and zoom in on step by step components of the lesson. The below images are final screenshots (which can be saved and easily sent to students) on how information is highlighted and isolated. No longer do I need to reinforce my directions into the chat feature but simply write on the whiteboard on the tablet directly on the slide or page (figure 2)

Additionally, I can circulate around the classroom with tablet and pen in hand to check student work and levels of engagement. The pen feature allows me to write on the screen and transcribes my writing into text (Figure 3).

I am still exploring more ways to use this tablet into an assistive technology device but already my students are seeing the benefits. Students have shared how much they are enjoying the Math 180 class and emphasize how useful my tablet and features are to their learning. A 7th grader in cohort C recently commented, “I can understand everything! This class shows me how to be better in math step by step.”

Now Mary Grace, being the empathetic colleague that she is, was reluctant to share her successes using the Surface Pro & stylus to help support her remote learners knowing her colleagues do not have access to the same technology. However, we shared some exciting news with her that we are now sharing with all of you: The MPS IT Department is presently working tirelessly to provide all educators with their own Surface Pro so that you can soon try the suggestions that Mary Grace has provided. More information will be provided soon!

Thank you Mary Grace Cianci for shining so brightly!

Tech Tip of the Week: Access Pear Deck and share with your students!

What is it?
  • Pear Deck turns your Google Slides presentation into an interactive activity.

How do I get to it?

  •>Teacher Login>Login with Google, or
  • Open a Google Slides presentation, the Pear Deck add-on should be found to the left of "Add-ons" in the top center of your screen.

What can I do with Pear Deck?

  • Add audio to a slide.
  • Create text, choice, number, website, drawing, collect formative assessment data, or create draggable item types.

How do my students access my Pear Deck?

  • Open the desired presentation, select the Pear Deck addon, then "Start lesson". Choose student or instructor-paced activity.
  • Students will go to and enter the 6 character code that displays on your screen and you make your student or instructor-paced selection, or
  • Choose "Give Students a Link" from the same page and paste into Google Classroom, Seesaw, or Hapara!

Chromebook Operating System Update

The Technology Services Department has been following an issue with Chromebooks that has been affecting the quality of Zoom meetings as well as some other issues when running multiple tabs at the same time.

Google has released an update to resolve these issues. We have done successful testing on multiple devices to make sure that this update will address these issues.

Chromebooks should start to download the update over the next couple of days. Please make sure Chromebooks are turned off daily, this will help to get the update installed on the devices.

Directions that show how to check the version of the Chrome OS and how to force it to update can be found linked below.

"They key is to make sure that the addition of technology enhances and improves the activity because it allows students to pace their own learning, differentiates instruction, or personalizes practice."

Tucker, Catlin, et al. Blended Learning in Action. Corwin 2017.

Student Laptops at Middletown High

MHS teachers - in case you didn't know, the student devices are 2 in 1 laptops, meaning that they are touch screen, and can be folded completely open so that it basically is transformed into a tablet!

A minor issue that we have come across is that when the device is returned back to the traditional laptop configuration, a popup appears on screen asking if you want to switch back to desktop mode. This popup is easy to miss! If the student does not click "yes", then the devices stays in tablet mode which gives the Windows 10 operating system a bit of a different look (looks like the tile view from Windows 8) and may cause a bit of confusion for students.

To bring this message up so that tablet mode can be exited, open the laptop completely as if you're going to tablet mode, then return the screen back to traditional laptop mode; this will cause the popup to appear so that tablet mode can be properly exited!

Professional Development

This week, the MPS iTech Department facilitated and supported the following PD:

  • LINCspring Administrators will participate in this week's LINC professional learning.

If your school or department has specific professional development needs or wish to discuss specific professional development needs please reach out to Michelle or Steve.

MPS Instructional Technology

Please visit the MPS Instructional Technology website for additional training resources and ideas for implementation.