Fall Update: #SchoolTechChallenge

I’ve said that I’m going to do as @MrFiliplic is doing and blogging about #SchoolTechChallenge. I haven’t done any writing about it yet, so I’ll update you on what’s been going on.

Three major things:

1. Microsoft Teams

2. FlipGrid

3. FlipBoard

1. Microsoft Teams

For this piece of tech, I wanted to introduce students to Teams, and let them see how it works, how it feels, and what the ecosystem for it was like. I posed an assignment to them and they had to respond to a visual prompt. The results were varied, as it was a non-graded task to introduce them to the app and the idea. Those that responded (most of them, maybe 90%) responded well. I found the app a little odd to navigate, and it wasn’t a slick and easy as it is to comment and grade in Google Classroom. I will use it again, off-and-on, but I won’t be relying on it too much. I DO find that it has been useful for students to ask me questions in a private manner rather than in Classroom which isn’t conducive to individual, general questions (we have Google Chat/Hangouts disabled in our district, so there’s no communication available within the Google ecosystem).
Result: Will continue on a limited basis, especially after more student feedback.

2. FlipGrid

Similar to what I did with MS Teams, I did an intro assignment on FlipGrid, where students had to make an introduction video to the rest of the class. There was a lot of kick-back from students initially, though I think in the end they really enjoyed using it. I found it easy to use and implement, and though watching all that video will be hard when it comes time to mark the assignments, I think it will be worth it. Besides, I don’t think I’ll have ALL students do a response video for marks, but will require that 1/2 do the video that answers a curriculum question, and the other 1/2 of the class to respond to that video. Both will be marked, but I’ll split the big marking for the video that answers my question, and leave some easier points for the response video.

Result: Will continue into the next chapter and beyond. Perhaps 2-3 videos total over the course of the year.

3. FlipBoard

I’ve been using this app for years personally, and now use it in G9 to expose students to Social Studies-related articles to help with their content area literacy (and general knowledge of current events). We read from FlipBoard every Friday for about 10 minutes or so, and students will start doing response journals on an article of their choosing beginning next week. They will have something like 3 or 4 to do over the course of the year. I’m hoping that this will also help them get used to article summaries that they will be asked to write and read in G10 and beyond.

Result: Keep it up! Seems to be working well.

So that’s about it for now. I’ll update later on how things are continuing on. But for now, the #SchoolTechChallenge is a go!



Loading in 3…2…1… #SchoolTechChallenge

Hello everyone! As you know last year I wrote about two different challenges on this blog: my #30DayChromebookChallenge and my #iPadProDecemberChallenge. This year, I’m part of a Microsoft Innovators group with my district (shoutout to @CMcKee27), and we were given Lenovo 300e Windows 10 laptops. @MrFiliplic and I decided to try another challenge, so here we are.

See MrFiliplic’s blog post HERE.

In his post, Filiplic discusses the fact that he’s used Windows for years, and is already pretty familiar with it. I suppose he is right. So to actually make the challenge more of a challenge for himself, and I guess for me, he has called the challenge the #SchoolTechChallenge. Because really, it’s not about the tools we use, necessarily (though everything is better on a Mac), but it is about how we implement them with our students. So I’ll follow his lead (as always) and try to make the challenge about using all the tech I can to help kids. Sometimes, that might mean new tools that will make learning a little messy. Sometimes, it will be using tried and true old tricks, and very “low-tech” solutions. So be it. What’s the best tool to accomplish the task at hand? That’s what I’ll try to explore.

Follow along with me! I’ll be writing my blogs on my new Lenovo to get myself back into the Windows ecosystem a bit more. My video production and audio work for school will still be done on my Mac, simply because that’s where I’ve set up my workflows. I know that Windows can handle these tasks, with such supports as Adobe’s Creative Suite, but I’m not buying new systems just to do them on this computer.

So yes–follow along, offer suggestions, and let’s see where things lead!


What A Time To Be Alive

There has been a lot of writing recently about how great the new 9.7in iPad (“for Education”) is. Most notably, check out iMore’s Serenity Caldwell’s article HERE. I think it really is a great summary of what I was reading about the new iPad, and she does an excellent job at telling everyone what it is great for and what perhaps needs more work.

As you know, I’ve got an iPad Pro with Pencil, and I’ve been doing most of all my school work only with this device. Work has never been easier in terms of creating content for class, marking, assessing, giving feedback, and doing general teacher-ish stuff.

But what really excites me about the new iPad, as well as the tech world in general, is that I think we are FINALLY at the point where I was promised we would be. My whole life, I’ve been told how easy it would be “one day” to do x, y, or z, and how technology or computers would help with that. I think we have finally arrived at the point where the tech tools that are available to us are ubiquitous and varied enough to give us the perfect situation for technology to enhance creativity and productivity in schools.

I think we have finally arrived at the point where the tech tools that are available to us are ubiquitous and varied enough to give us the perfect situation for technology to enhance creativity and productivity in schools.

If you think about it, with merely an iPhone or iPad, students can research a subject, write a report, get feedback from classmates and instructors, take the ideas in the research and try to draw it/sketch it/model it in 3D. Shoot a video of the whole process, write the music for the video, upload it to YouTube or Classroom or whatever the teacher wants, and do it all over again with innumerable variations. All with one device.

Sure, we have preferences. Some prefer Samsung or Pixel phone, some love Chromebook, but the device doesn’t really matter. The point here is that it is in our hands. We control it. We create. We distribute.

We control it. We create. We distribute.

Think: before, with VHS camcorders, we had to get tape, get a camcorder (which very few people had), and we had to make a video with basically no editing available, no titles or inserted graphics, and no music. If we recorded anything for music, it would be on a cassette. Posters were written up on big sheets of paper–don’t mess up! You’ll have to buy a new one! Things were “available” to us but not compatible with one another. We are at the point where all of it is finally there for us.

If a student wants (or has time to figure it out), they could write, record, mix, produce, and release an album of original music from their bedroom. They can become YouTube stars. They can create vivid portfolios of work and share it with Universities or in the workforce. The tools are easy and accessible.

There is a large amount of work to be done. Access and affordability are still big issues, and we must often check our privilege when discussing these things. The perfect world does not exist yet, but we’re closer than we’ve ever been. When kids get empowered to take control of what they learn and how they learn it, good things will happen.

This is why I’m so excited about the new iPad. But along with this I’m excited for Chromebook, Microsoft’s Teams app (lots of cool stuff packed in there), PowerTeacher UnifiedClassroom, Google for Education, and a host of other tools out there.

What a time to be alive.


#iPadProDecemberChallenge Finished. Easy.

Well, that was easy.

As I stated earlier, I’ve been able to do almost all of my school work using the iPad Pro. The work that I didn’t do with it was more into the realm of stuff I needed for Broadcast–video editing, compiling, saving and sharing, moving files to the TriCaster for our Broadcast sessions. Even then, 90% of that could have been done in iMovie, but I wanted to use an app with more features, so I turned to my MacBook Pro for Final Cut Pro X. Even then, getting the stuff to the TriCaster required using a flash drive, which is a bit more dicey with an iPad.

Is there a learning curve?

Depends. I’ve used iOS devices for since 2009, so I’m used to the ecosystem and how to think through a problem and solution. That being said, I do think the learning curve is no more or less than that of the Chromebook. You just have to poke around and try things until you find something that works for you.

For me, this works. I love it, and I enjoy using it, even when doing “work”. That’s a good sign to me. Tech is cool and interesting and everything, but I think that unless you like it, unless you enjoy working with that particular piece of tech, it’s not worth it. For you, if you love working with the Surface Pro, then use that. If you love a desktop and Windows, then use those. In learning about Tech and the combination of software and hardware, there is no best answer. There’s the answer that works for you. And I think that in teacher’s lives, sometimes that’s all we can hope for. The status quo. There’s a lot of other things to consider: grading, duty schedules, parent emails/meetings/phone calls, IPPs, lesson plans, curriculum mapping, meetings, actual teaching, lesson prep, etc.


I these challenges have also reminded me to take risks. To try something new. To experiment. Tell the kids you’re trying it. Tell them it might fail. Be open to everyone. Teachers, as well as being busy and keeping the status quo going, also forget to push themselves sometimes. We forget that we have to upskill ourselves all the time. That’s more than just downloading and trying Snapchat because “the kids use it.” It’s learning the tools, it’s figuring out what they can and can’t do, so that we can relay that information to our students. It’s not about knowing everything about Tech, it’s about being open for change and new things. If we can model that, I think we’ve succeeded with our students.

And with that, folks, the #iPadProDecemberChallenge is officially complete.

Welcome to 2018.


Almost Everything

Well, I’ve been following the #30DayChromebookChallenge, and I’ve done nearly all my work on the CB for school. The one big snag I’m hitting is the fact that our gradebook system doesn’t run online, and I need a specific program for it. Thus, I can only run that program on my desktop or my MacBook Pro. For those heavy lifting items, I still need something beyond the CB.

In the past few days, I’ve done more grading through Google Classroom on it, and using it with Google Docs is pretty slick. Not a dream–nothing on the CB is a dream, per se–but it worked well and did everything I needed. As @MrFiliplic said in his posts, when the Chromebook is working in the Google Ecosystem, it shines.

In our school, we’ve confidently ordered a big set of Chromebooks for student use, and just today I ordered a few more for use on an individual basis. So for recommendations so far? Yes–if used for school. Perhaps these aren’t for people that need to do “real” work on a computer–they’re just too light. But if everything is done online, it’s a nice, cheap, decent machine.

An issue came up today with a new student, and trying to set up translation help for him on a CB. We found it to be a bit cumbersome, and there wasn’t a great way immediately that we found that helped us out. But with a few more app extension experiments, I’m pretty confident we can find a good solution.

So overall–it does everything I need it to. Well, almost everything. And that’s enough for now.


N.T.R., Boss

Nothing to report, Boss.

Didn’t touch the computer all weekend. Only used my MBP to work on LogicPro X stuff with a podcast that I’m setting up. So in that sense, with no native support for a program like GarageBand or Logic or Audacity, then the CB isn’t fully what I need for audio production. But then again, there ARE programs that work as Chrome extensions that allow for some of that. Maybe an area to explore later.

Off to Monday!


About 1/2 Done with the Challenge!

From what I see at @MrFiliplic, I see that we’re nearly 1/2 done with the #30DayChromeBookChallenge!  Time flies. I don’t have a lot to add beyond what he said–we’re having nearly the exact same experience. You can read about his adventures here.

Similar to Mr F, I’ve found myself barely using my desktop computer. Nearly everything that I do on that I can do on my Chromebook. The two biggest things are to run our Broadcast in the morning (which I’ve never tried on this device…worth giving it a shot even though I’m nearly 100% positive it won’t work) and for using GradeBook. As Gradebook requires a program install, I can’t run it on here. Still, it’s taken over nearly 90% of all my classroom computer use. It’s been a very versatile machine, and generally is handy.

In terms of typing a lot on it, I’m not a huge fan. My fingers don’t love the keyboard as much as my Mac, but these things are often a matter of muscle memory and personal taste. Also, if I’m fair, I’m rarely sitting properly at a table using the computer–I’m walking around with it, talking to students, at my desk, at their desk, moving, etc etc. So while, sure–that type of typing won’t be super comfortable–still, it’s a reality of teaching and if the typing isn’t comfortable in those situations, then perhaps that’s a design element that could be improved upon.

I don’t use the touchscreen too often, but I have noticed I’ve gone back to touching the screens of our desktops at the school expecting them to interact with me. So while I agree with Steve Jobs on this (“Turns out, people don’t like using a touchscreen in this way”), I also can see the usefulness of having the capability around as well. Jury’s still out on it.

I’ll keep going, and see what else I can do. Sill trying to get that video made. 🙂 Baby steps.


Online, Offline

Same work with the Chromebook. I tried to record a video tutorial using Screencastify, but that ended up in failure last night. Not a Chromebook error, but rather the site I was trying to use could only be accessed when I was on the district network. So I’ll try again tomorrow.

I’m setting up some Google Sheets for various uses, and found the offline work that the Chromebook allows to be pretty slick. I worked on the Sheets while my daughter was at gymnastics, and when I got home, they uploaded and saved right away to my Drive. Pretty slick.

So for now I’m at a stale-mate. I need to challenge myself more on this, but haven’t been able to really get the challenge going yet. I’m looking for more difficult stuff to do. Suggestions? 🙂


Weekend, O Weekend

We went away for Saturday and much of Sunday. I brought my Chromebook with me, along with my MacBookPro. Just in case. I ended up using my MBP, but just for checking Facebook a bit, looking for directions to the church we were visiting, and that was about it. Played some music on my iTunes. So totally didn’t need the MBP, but it was nice to use.

Didn’t touch my Chromebook until Sunday night, when I worked on lesson plans, catching up on some emails, etc. Then I had a plan. Talking to a colleague, we realized we needed a video for kids to use to help them figure out how to fill out notes packets if they just had their phone or tablet. So I took out my iPhone (6s…about a year and a half old) and worked on the video. I used the iOS 11 screen record to record my movements in and throughout apps, and then dumped that into Apple Clips to add my vocals, an intro, soundtrack, etc. Very easy to do. Took me a while because I kept messing up what I said, but not because it was hard to do.

From there, I shared the video to the colleague, posted it to two of my Google Classrooms, uploaded it to YouTube, and shared it to a third Google Classroom (one for us in Social).

Could I have done this on my Chromebook? Well, other than the iOS recording and use. I’d have to say Yes, I could have. I’m hoping–as I mentioned before–to work on that this week and create a similar video on how kids can complete notes using a Chromebook. I’m hoping it will be as easy as it was to create on my phone.

Into the week we go!


Personally Professional

Finished a full week now on the Chromebook. Overall, a pretty successful week. I’m actually really liking my lesson plan format with Google Docs, and find it more accessible and useable than I had with the PDF version I used to use. So for now this method is a keeper.

I’ve been “working” on my website, which is related to work, but also not 100% directly tied to it. I mentioned in my previous post that I was working on app icon creation. Today I stumbled upon Adobe Spark, which is all browser-based, and I used that to create an app icon that I’m pretty happy with.

Adobe Spark-2

So while this is personal, it is also professional. And totally able to be done on a Chromebook.

So at the end of week 1, my thoughts are still the same, but very happy with my progress so far. Next step for exploration for me is to start working on deeper stuff like screen casting (tried it yesterday and failed miserably), audio/video creation. Let’s see where this goes!