MCSD Ed Tech Review

Tools & Tips Worth Your Time

Issue 8, February 2017

New Year's Ed Tech Resolution

I know it's not even January any more, and I've asked you to think about this before, but it isn't too late to make a New Year's Ed Tech Resolution for yourself and your students. If you're like me, you've learned from past resolutions that grandiose promises to yourself rarely end well; I haven't taken so much as a single lesson to learn an instrument, I'm not fluent in a foreign language, and I certainly don't haven't turned the gym into a daily (or yearly) habit.

So learn from your mistakes (or mine if you're batting a thousand with your own...seriously?), and start small. Think about one aspect of your teaching you'd like to change. Or think about a unit or lesson that you're tired of teaching, or that just never seems to work well with the students. Resolve to find a way to infuse technology into your teaching to make that lesson work, to make your class more engaging, to better prepare your students for the challenges they will face in college and/or the workforce.

To that end, in case you're having trouble thinking about how to frame such a resolution, or aren't sure what you can do to better prepare your students, we are going to take a look at the ISTE Student Standards in this issue. After you've had a chance to read the rest of the newsletter and come up with your own New Year's Ed Tech Resolution, please share it the rest of us.

Click here to tell us what your resolution is, and we'll share them (anonymously if you choose) in upcoming newsletters. You'll need to be logged into your MCSD Google account to access the form.

The ISTE Student Standards

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What is ISTE, and what are the Student Standards?

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is an organization that has been around since 1979. It started with a group of teachers in Eugene, Oregon who were interested in how new technologies could be used to put students in charge of their own learning. One of their guiding questions is, "What if we let computers do what they do best, freeing up humans to create, to dream, to change the world?"

Since 1979, the organization has grown from a small group who used to meet at backyard barbecues to a truly international organization whose annual conference draws nearly 20,000 people from around the globe. They may have gotten exponentially bigger in the past four decades, but they stay true to the guiding principles of using technology to foster student-centered learning, and future-ready students.

To that end, the first ISTE Student Standards were released in 1998. A revised version was then published in 2007. As technology changes, so too do the ways it impacts our lives and our classrooms. So, couple years ago, the call went out to their members that they were looking to refresh the 2007 standards. As the result of the work of groups of teachers and industry leaders, the latest ISTE Student standards were released in 2016.

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Before we look at the standards, I'd like to point something out. When reading the standards, looking at the rubrics, performance indicators, etc., notice that there is very little in the way of specific technologies mentioned. That is deliberate. The standards, as with most education standards, are about skills. These are the skills that some of the best and brightest minds in education, technology, and industry have concluded will provide our students with the best chance for success in their futures. But if you look at the timeline above, the standards have moved away from specific technology and goals for mastering it, to using a range of technologies to change how and what students are learning.

I have said it before, and I no doubt will say it many times again, we are here to prepare our students for their futures, not our present. If we allow ourselves to neglect these skills and the integration of technology in our classrooms because "I didn't use computers when I was in school," or, "Why come up with a new way to teach this unit when I've got a perfectly good way already planned out that I've used for the last 10 years," or, "I've got very good test results with my kids, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it," then we are not only doing our students a disservice, we may very well be hampering them in their future lives as they leave us lacking the skills they will need.

Below you will find all seven of the Student Standards. Even though they are numbered, don't think of them like a sequential list where we have to address one standard before moving on to the next. During the course of a school year, you may (and probably already do) jump all over within these standards.

The ISTE Student Standards (2016)

1. Empowered Learner

  • Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
2. Digital Citizen
  • Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
3. Knowledge Constructor
  • Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
4. Innovative Designer
  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
5. Computational Thinker
  • Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.
6. Creative Communicator
  • Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
7. Global Collaborator
  • Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

A Closer Look @ the ISTE Student Standards

Starting with Standard 1 now, and over the next few issues, we'll be taking a closer look, seeing how they might be addressed in our classroom with sample activities, and some resources that you might use.

To check out the expanded view below, go to the ISTE Student Standards 2016 page.

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Indicator 1a

Set Learning Goals:

Many teachers respond to this portion of the indicator with statements like, "My curriculum is set by the state, so I can't let them choose what they learn." That's true for many subject areas. What you need to keep in mind is that setting learning goals does not necessarily (although it can) mean the student designing their own curricula. It also isn't something that will necessarily happen in your class every day. Students setting their own learning goals can be done as easily as giving them choices in project design and execution; anything from which topic to research in more depth, to what means to use in presenting their learning. Those kinds of things require a level of metacognition, as the students have to see the big picture of what their overall goals must be, and how best to get their for themselves.

At the elementary level, it is crucial that this process be modeled. It may be a case of walking them through the thought processes behind a unit or project. Why did the teacher set those goals for the class? If they haven't seen behind the curtain, so to speak, and gotten a chance to see how the process is done by experts (you), then it's unlikely they'll have a lot of success when we start to ask them to do it.

In terms of technology, there are a number of tools that can be used by students. One that jumps to mind is Google Drive, and components like Docs and Forms in particular. There are several reasons these tools are well-suited. First, Drive provides a level of organization for students, or at least a virtual filing cabinet. So students can use documents to keep track of their goals, and always have them accessible in Drive. Second, and probably more important, is the collaborative piece. Using Docs or Forms as a way for students to record their learning goals gives you, the teacher, an opportunity to provide ongoing feedback, which is critical in the process.

Reflect on the Learning Process:

As with the setting of learning goals, this requires modeling. Students need to shown the value of evaluating their own learning on an ongoing basis, and how to do it. They need to gain an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. This can only help them in not only setting their own learning goals, but in being more successful overall.

In terms of technology. There are several options readily available in the district. First again would be Drive, where students could keep something like a learning log, as way to record their reflections on their learning. There are also a number of services that the district licenses that can be used by students, either in the form of assignments from the teacher, or as independent work, that provide formative assessment info. Those would include: Castle Learning, Starfall, MobyMax, BrainPOP, and All of these can provide students with instant feedback and information on their own level of mastery.

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Indicator 1b

Build Learning Networks:

The idea here is to help students learn to tap into the larger global community of experts and fellow learners to help meet their own learning goals. The advent of the internet means that the walls of geographic and socio-economic isolation can be more easily broken down, or at least greatly weakened.

There are many ways technology can be used to help students build learning networks. Examples are through online communities, social media, use of email, Google Hangouts/Skype/Facetime, digital pen pals.

At the primary level, student activity must, of course, be tightly monitored for the safety of the students, so things like social media and open online communities may be impractical or even impossible. But, we can start modeling the skills that they will need to more fully step into the digital world as they get older.

You might begin by using an assignment in a Google doc or Slides, pair students up, and have them share their documents and provide feedback. The students could be doing this at different times, or even days, than each other. Or, pairing up students in different classes, or even different buildings, thus giving them a more accurate feel for the basics of digital citizenship.

As we move into the secondary level there are many things already being done to help build those networks. Examples include the Skype/Hangout sessions that happen frequently, digital pen pal projects (we have a teacher whose students have digital pen pals in the Bronx),, and more.

Customize Their Learning Environment:

First, the pieces of Indicator 1a discussed above are very important in this. Before students customize their learning environment, they need to develop an understanding of what they need to customize and why. Here we can also see an opportunity for students to set their learning goals. If they identify a strength or weakness in their own learning, then what modifications can they make to their own learning environments to adjust for that?

How this process looks is dependent, of course, on factors like age. But students could be shown a range of available tools that might help them, and be encouraged to decide which fits their needs the best. Then, to continue the process, they should be encouraged to reflect on how that tool is working for them, and whether they need to reassess and try something different.

Here it's probably good to stop and remind you of something. You don't always have to be an expert, especially when it comes to technology. A level of proficiency is great, but you shouldn't necessarily keep a tool from students because you aren't comfortable with it. There are two reasons: first, given a few nudges in the right direction, they will probably become proficient with it before you do, and second, you can always call on others in the district, such as myself, to help out.

A great example of tools that can help students modify their own learning environment are Google Chrome extensions. These are like small programs you can add to the Chrome web browser that allow it to do things that it can't otherwise do. For instance, there are extensions that will let you take voice notes to go along with a YouTube video, or change the reading level of an article, or add sticky notes to web pages, or modify images on a page so they're more accessible to those who are color blind, or clean up a page and remove all ads, videos, pictures, and other distractions, or convert the font to one more easily readable by some with dyslexia, or keep track of your open tabs so you don't forget where you found something, and much, much, more.

All students have access to a premium extension called Read&Write. Among other things, it will convert text into speech, create vocabulary lists, enable you to highlight on a page and collect those highlights in a Google doc, and more. This extension can be accessed on any Chromebook, Windows PC, or Mac.

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Indicator 1c

Seek Feedback:

We already dealt with this to an extent in looking at 1a. That feedback is essential as students reflect not only on their learning outcomes, but on their learning process.

The truth is, if you're a decent teacher, you already do this. You already provide students with ongoing feedback about their performance. We all know that you do not want to wait until the unit test, or the final or state exam for students to know how well they've learned the material. We want them to know from the start what they've mastered, and what needs more work.

The twist here is that the impetus on the student, as we want them actively looking for that feedback rather than passively sitting and waiting for, or being surprised by, it.

In terms of technology, as discussed above, Google docs provides an easy and excellent way for that ongoing communication to happen so that students can improve.

Demonstrate Learning in a Variety of Ways:

Again, this ties back to 1a as we discussed this kind of choice as a way to introduce an element of students setting their own learning goals. This isn't a revolutionary idea, but it is sometimes easy to get out of the habit since it is sometimes easier for us to give an assignment and require that everyone complete it the same way. Of course, there are always going to be assignments that have to be done that way. But ask yourself if there are places in your curriculum that rather than having every student take the same test, or everyone write a paper in the same format, if you could let the students choose how they demonstrate their mastery of the content/concept/skill.

So instead of the summative assessment you usually use, you could give them a list of options for how they show you that they've mastered it. The tech tools they use could include things like: a Google Slides presentation; a Google Site; use a Chrome extension like Nimbus Screenshot to make a narrated video; use Google Docs to write about it while including pictures, video, links, etc.; a custom My Map with multimedia place markers; online presentation software like ReadyMag.

Ask around and you'll find quite a number of teachers in our district already offering their students these kinds of choices. Ask them what changes they've seen in the final products and evidence of their students' learning. I have and most are very pleased with the results. If you think about it, this make sense. If you're told you have to do something vs. being given some choices of what you can do, how do you react? Some people do just want the bulleted list of what we need to get done, but some of us want the freedom to do it our way. Our students are the same way. This kind of choice can lead to increased engagement, and an increased sense of ownership in the process.

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Indicator 1d

Understand Technology Operations & Transfer Knowledge:

I have been in dozens of classrooms in all five buildings and seen first-hand the evidence of students learning how to use specific tech tools, and then turning around and applying those skills to other tools. As said above in the introduction to the standards, this is one of the reasons the ISTE Student Standards don't focus on specific tools. What's most important is that they learn the skills needed to successfully learn to use specific tools. It's the kind of thing that makes it easy once you've mastered something like Google Docs to jump into Google Sites, or even many non-Google services, and not feel hopelessly lost and over your head. Once you start to understand how something like a particular website building service works, chances are very good that you'll be able to go to a different one and be using it much more quickly. Because you have started to understand how the technology works.

When it comes to learning to effectively use technology, the biggest hurdle is truly mindset. I've met many people who said, "I can't use [whatever tech tool we're working on], I'm hopeless when it comes to technology." Those people often turn out to be right, because they've already decided they aren't going to do it. Meanwhile, I haven't worked with a single person in this district who said, "I need some help, but I'm going to do this," who failed. We want our students to develop that mindset. You can be a very powerful catalyst for this if you are willing to show them that you will work hard to figure it out, even when you're struggling.

Of course, as educators, we know that learning doesn't appear from thin air. We need to start with some teaching. That's where I and a host of talented and helpful people across the district come in. Of course you and your kids will need some help getting started with some brand new tech tools. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help.

Troubleshoot Technologies:

Here our students often have an advantage over us. They aren't afraid. If something isn't working, unless they're specifically told not to, they will very often try to figure out on their own what's broken and how to get it working. Many adults, faced with a malfunctioning piece of equipment, or a website that suddenly isn't working like it used to, will put it down and slowly back away. When asked what they've tried to fix it, I usually hear, "I didn't want to break it."

I'll let you in on a couple of secrets. First, breaking something like a Chromebook is actually fairly hard to do (I'm not talking about dropping it, throwing it, or putting something through the screen here. I mean in the course of normal use, and normal troubleshooting, it's unlikely you could do anything that couldn't be undone.) Second, the best friends of the technology troubleshooter, both pro and armchair, are Google and YouTube. If you're having a problem with a piece of technology, I can almost guarantee someone else has too, and they probably wrote about it on the internet or put up a video of how to fix it.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous, we want our students (and ourselves) to be self-reliant. We want them to have the skills to be able to track down solutions to their problems and go ahead and fix them. We need these skills because things are going to go wrong. That I can guarantee. So when they do, model troubleshooting for your students. Work through it, and let them in on the process. If you've got a very talented student, let them take the lead in fixing tech problems for you and your students. The other students will learn from this as well.

Of course, the reality with troubleshooting is that you will sometimes hit a wall and not be able to figure it out. That's ok, don't get frustrated. Again, remember we're modeling how we handle these kinds of things, and when you reach your limit, it's ok to get help. That's where I, your IT Building Assistant, and our IT staff come in.

MCSD Resource Spotlight

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In the fall, our district purchased a license for Flocabulary for all staff. At that time, you should have gotten an email directly from Flocabulary with directions for creating your account, and a link to follow. If you did not get that email, or came on board more recently, let me know ( and I can make sure you get set up.
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The site covers a wide range of curricula and grade levels (including a weekly current events video). It's aim is to teach concepts and skills utilizing videos with custom hip-hop songs. Now, before you stop reading, those of you who know me can probably guess that there isn't a lot of hip-hop in my iTunes library...ok, none. But let me say that this site can be extremely effective in providing one more tool to teach and reinforce material, and a tool that many of your students will find entertaining, engaging, and catchy.

We're fortunate enough to have Marcia Tate coming to work with us in a couple of months. Following a long career as a teacher and administrator, she has become a leader in helping teachers incorporate the latest research about the brain and how learning takes place into their own classrooms (See last March's issue of the MCSD Ed Tech Review for much more information on her keys to successful teaching.) One of the areas she focuses on is the use of music.

Music can be used to not only create a mood in a classroom, but can aid in the learning process itself. Think of how many songs from your teenage years you still remember the words to.

So if you're looking for a resource that might help your students learn and remember your content, check Flocabulary. They are constantly expanding their library, so even if it isn't there right now, that doesn't mean it never will be.

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Above you see a video page from Flocabulary. Notice on the left side, there are a number of pre-made teacher resources. You could use Flocabulary by simply projecting the video in your room and printing out the resources you want to use with your students. You can also, though, create your own classes and have the students log into the site using their Google accounts. If you go this route, you can assign your classes videos, worksheets and quizzes, which they would complete online. You can then access grade reports for your classes.
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In addition to their videos, they have some other useful resources available. The picture above shows you how to access some of these.

So if you haven't, check out Flocabulary. The teachers who are using it in our district say their students are really enjoying it, and that it's one more method to bring content to them. Again, if you didn't get an email invite, let me know and I'll make sure you get your account set up.

Resource Roundup

Hey, Watch This!

Check out Issue 2 of the MCSD Ed Tech Review for tips on using YouTube in the classroom.

If you have a video that you think is worth checking out, send me the link and I'll include it in an upcoming issue.

Music Video with Interdisciplinary Tie-Ins
OK Go - Upside Down & Inside Out
The musical group OK Go is truly a product of the Internet generation. Maybe you remember that these are the guys who first became famous because of their extremely low budget music video using treadmills that went viral. If you click on that link you'll notice that video has over 35 million views, and it isn't even the original video that they uploaded, it's the one they replaced it with after they hit it big.

They've kept their fame going by continuing to produce elaborate and interesting music videos. The one above is shot entirely in one of those planes that can simulate zero might have heard of such planes being called "the vomit comet."

Now, the reason I've decided to include this video in the issues isn't just because it's pretty cool (which it is - whether you like the music or not), but rather because of the companion video below.

OK Go - Upside Down & Inside Out BTS - How We Did It
This behind-the-scenes video might be of interest as a launching point into a topic, discussion, or project in a range of subjects from music, to physics and math, to video production.

Google Pro Tip

Late Work & Google Classroom

Chances are, if you're a Google Classroom user, one of the reasons is because you've found out how easy it is to distribute assignments to students, and then have them turn them in when complete. If you've gone a bit deeper, you've probably also realized how easy it makes providing ongoing feedback and and communication (If you haven't checked out the private comment feature attached to individual student assignments, it's worth the time.).

Since it's inception in August 2014, Classroom has continued to evolve and grow, based in large part on feedback from teachers. Classroom has had the ability to set a due date and time from the start. But, students have always been able to submit work after the due date, and in the teacher dashboard all you had to go by was a note in the assignment page that it was done late, but no indication of how late.

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There were ways that you could investigate the assignment document itself to get a better sense of when the work was done (revision history for docs, for instance, or examining recent activity on a document which would show a change in permissions corresponding to hitting "Turn In." But it might still leave some questions as to the definitive time an assignment was turned in.

That changed recently. If you go into your Classroom settings:

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In the menu that slides out from the left, click on Settings.
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Make sure the box is checked under "Notifications."
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Now, what will happen is that as students submit work late, you will automatically receive an email, sent to your Gmail account, informing you the instant they hit the button to turn it in. In your inbox, it looks like this:
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I realize that's pretty tiny, but the pertinent information is that the mail is sent from the student's account, the title starts with "Submitted Late," and it gives you the date. All of these would be helpful in searching through archived mail if you needed to find more information on when a student turned an assignment in. But, sometimes just the date isn't enough. If we open the email, we get more information.
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So here we get more detailed info on what the assignment was, how many days late it was turned in, and a link to jump right to the student's work. But there's more. If we needed to be even more precise about the timing, click on the small arrow in the email header next to "to me." I've circled it in green in the picture above.
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Looking at the date line here, we can see the exact minute the student submitted the late assignment.

If you wanted to retain all such emails, should they be needed down the road, it is very easy to create filters that will attach a label to such messages as they come in, mark them as read, and even automatically archive them so they're not clogging up your email inbox if you like. If you would like help with that, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you set that up.

Back Issues

1 - December 2015 - Hour of Code, Living in Beta, Tools for Engagement

2 - January 2016 - YouTube: Channels, Playlists, Content Create, Classroom Integration

3 - February 2016 - Formative Assessment Principles and Tools

4 - March 2016 - Brain-Based Learning Techniques and Tools

5 - May 2016 - End of the Year Tips and Reminders

6 - September 2016 - Welcome Back

Get In Touch

My job is to be here as a resource for you and your students. If you want help learning how to integrate technology in your classroom, please let me know. For more information on the sorts of ways I might help you, look at this.

- Mark Dalton, Ed Tech Coordinator