AoP Tech News September 2017

Tech News, Support, and Information for AoP Educators!

Back to School, Back to Tech

By Alissa DeVito, Associate Director of Educational Technology

September is here and that means all things back to school! As you are gathering your supplies and organizing your classroom, don’t forget to prep your tech! The start of the school year is the perfect time to reinvigorate your edtech toolbox and try something new.

If the thought of starting the school year and trying a new tool at the same time seems too overwhelming, there are a few strategies to make it easier. The simplest is to wait a few weeks to integrate the tool, but take the time to plan now. This gives you and your students time to settle into the school year, while giving you a little extra time to play. Once students are comfortable with the rules and procedures of the classroom, then work your new tool skills into lessons. Two other strategies that can lead to success are focusing on one tool a semester and utilizing student ambassadors to help.

First, because there are just so many tools available, narrow your focus to learning and implementing only one tool a marking period. This gives the flexibility of trying new tools without feeling the pressure of implementing everything all at once! For me, this added up to three different tools over the course of the school year. Then by following this method, my students and I amassed skills in a fantastic variety of tools over time. To take this a step further, partner with another teacher in your building to learn different tool and share with each other or students. Students become experts in double the amount of tools!

Second, utilize student ambassadors to help you choose and learn new tools. These students can preview and play with the tool first and give feedback - pros/cons, if they’d use in it in a project, etc. When doing this, it gave me a fantastic idea whether or not a tool would work across my students before the lesson itself . Maximize this strategy by having ambassadors learn all the ins and outs of the app. During student work time, these ambassadors can help other students with their tech issues, allowing you to focus on individual and small group instruction. What a lifesaver!

Now that you have a plan in place, are you looking for some new tools and apps to try? Here are my 5 (plus a bonus!) tools to try this year!

  1. For Teacher Organization: Google Keep

    • Do you love post it notes? Do you wish you could take them wherever you go? Then Google Keep is for you. Download the app and use in Chrome to sync your notes, links, and lists across devices. This is my new tool for the year!

  2. For Formative Assessment:

    • allows you to create digital worksheets with a wide variety of question types and automatic grading. I love that this tool integrates with Classroom and a wide variety of LMSs. Talk about time saving!

  3. For STEM Initiatives: MIT App Inventor

    • Want to get kids coding? Looking to add another option to your makerspace? MIT App Inventor helps students to create their own android apps. Best of all, you don’t have to be a coding master to use this - there’s fantastic resources/tutorials for teachers and students!

  4. For Flipped Classrooms: CaptureCast

    • There are many screencasting tools available for teachers and students to make flipped videos. G Suite integrated, this Chrome extension can record both the device screen AND webcam at the same time!

  5. For Digital Citizenship: Google’s Be Internet Awesome

    • As teachers, we’re always working to help our students be better digital citizens. This game based, immersive world walks students through several key digital citizenship keystones in a fun way. It’s a great way to start the school year right. I might plan to use this in the first few days when schedules are crazy, but I want students engaged and learning!

Bonus tool! Don’t forget about Flippity! Flippity has templates to turn Google Sheets into name generators, quiz games, progress indicators, and more! It’s an oldie but a goodie!

What are you looking to try this year? What’s your go-to strategy for implementing new tech tools in the classroom? Share with us @aoptech!

Why “I Don’t Know” is Step One of Growing Confidence

by Aaron Heintz, Technology Integration Coach PreK-12

For those who watched Doug Belshaw’s TED talk last month who knew LOLcats existed back in 1905!?!? For those who like to connect with Doug, I encourage you to follow him on Twitter @dajbelshaw.

In August’s AOPTech Newsletter issue we introduced our theme for the 2017-18 school year focusing on exploring Doug Belshaw’s 8 Digital Literacies. In his introduction Doug explains, “I see [this book] as the raw material from which you can start thinking about what digital literacies might mean in your context. That may be part of a personal journey. It may be that your organization has staff needing to update their digital skills. It might be an educational institution looking to develop digital literacies in their students. Whatever you're looking to do, my aim is for this book to leave you asking the right questions” (7). Developing the Confident element of digital literacies involves solving problems and managing one’s own learning in digital environments. Asking the right questions, is an important step in growing Confidence. To learn new things, we must first understand the limits of what we do and do not know. Then, the challenge is to use those answers to begin exploring, searching and reaching for what we do not yet know and understand. As our digital knowledge and abilities grow, so will our digital Confidence.

Given Doug’s desire for us to grow by asking the right questions, below are some questions specifically on the first pillar - Confidence. I challenge you to consider these questions on a personal level, on a classroom level and as a school community.

  1. When exploring new digital tools and environments, why is Confidence important?

  2. How can we as educators instill digital Confidence in our students?

  3. How do we maintain and grow our own Confidence regarding Digital Literacy?

AOPTech exists to help support teachers using technology in their classroom. (Email us! We are happy to help you.) We all are former classroom teachers who started using technology one app, one site, one device at a time. Slowly, over the years we gained a familiarity with those first few tools and our skills grew. We began exploring, sharing and discovering other new digital tools, apps and sites. So many of my own internet searches begin with “How do I….[insert task, skill or project]”. It is when we realize that we do not know something and seek to learn more about it, that our confidence as an opportunity to truly grow and expand. As our research, trials and exploring begin to yield results, our confidence continues grows.

Let us know on Twitter how you think Confidence in a Digital environment impacts you and your students. How has your Confidence grown and shaped over time?

September Challenge: Take 1 tip, resource, app or site from this newsletter or from the ones below and give it a try. Live the Growth Mindset! Let your Confidence grow!

Sign up for these great resources -

ClassTechTips newsletter

Alice Keelers’ newsletter

Vicky Davis’ newsletter

Connected Educator Webinar Series Returns Next Month!

The start of the school year means we're ready to kickoff the 2017-2018 Connected Educator Webinar Series! Please visit our website for dates, registration information, and Act 48 information.

Tech Director Corner

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to the 2017-2018 school year! I hope you enjoyed a relaxing and refreshing summer vacation! As a former principal, I love this time of year! Seeing our teachers and students return from vacation excited to start another year of learning always provided a boost! It is through you that this light and passion for their curiosity of learning continues to burn throughout the school year!

This year the technology department, AoP Tech, is looking forward to another wonderful year working with you on integrating technology into the classroom for students’ learning! We have welcomed another Technology Integration Coach, Mrs. Annabel Dotzman, to the team! Now with three individuals to support our schools this will allow our coaching team to visit your school more frequently to support you and your administration! As well, our newsletter is now truly digital via the Smore platform! We look forward to receiving your feedback on it and recommendations for future content!

This academic year marks our first goal in the Educational Technology plan that was released in August 2016. The goal is simple; use Common Sense Media’s (CSM) lessons to teach Digital Citizenship in our schools, K-12. The content is rich and laid out in full scope and sequence by CSM. As our students continue to evolve with their use of digital resources and devices, so do our roles in supporting their development. Across the curriculum, we must be consistent in our expectations of developing students in God’s likeness in their day-to-day actions in-person and online.

As we progress throughout the school year, many of our professional development opportunities will be interwoven with themes of Digital Literacy as presented by Mr. Doug Belshaw. Specifically, he presents 8 pillars of Digital Literacy: Confidence, Civic, Critical, Cognitive, Cultural, Constructive, Communicative, and Creativity. Please read Aaron Heintz’s article about it, here.

Lastly, a consistent challenge facing us as educators is to remain current in our practice through the appropriate amount of professional development. One of our most significant hurdles to this is simply time. However, as you settle into the new school year, know that there are hundreds of other educators within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the same boat! And, it is through connections that you can make with colleagues through social media that will allow you to engage in professional dialogue, sharing resources, best practices, and recommendations on technology integration. Use the AoPTech social media outlets as your first bridge to beginning these professional conversations.

There are tremendous things going on in our schools! Continue to post what you are doing in the classroom and connect with others to share in the excitement of your students’ experiences and learning outcomes!

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I wish you well on the start of your school year!


Bill Brannick

AoP Tech Team

Bill Brannick, Director of Technology

Alissa DeVito, Associate Director of Educational Technology

Aaron Heintz, Technology Integration Coach

Annabel Dotzman, Technology Integration Coach