Archive for category Best Practices in Education

Increase Math Fluency with Big Brainz!


For the past several years, LCISD students grades K-8 have been taking advantage of Big Brainz as a means to increase math fluency with one catch; the multiplication and division portals of Big Brainz were more fully developed than addition/subtraction side of things. Well folks, that is no longer the case!

To access the updated software, simply install the new version directly over your old version…or install Big Brainz for the first time! The entire process takes less than 5 minutes.

Important Note:  The update to Addition/Subtraction is a completely new game inside of Big Brainz.  Once Big Brainz has been reinstalled, students who choose to play Addition/Subtraction will be prompted to take a simple 10 minute pre-test before jumping into the game at the level their pre-test results places them.  If students have played the old version of the Addition/Subtraction game in the past, their progress will be replaced with results from the new version of the game.  Any results from Multiplication/Division will remain unaltered.

Click here to learn how to install the latest version of the Big Brainz software

Don’t Forget to Play!

Once installed, students in grades K – 8 can log in using their LCISD Student ID number, choose an operation, and begin building math fluency. This software is even available for students to use at home!  Of course, no one can build fluency unless they actually spend time practicing.  After installation, the one of the most important thing teachers and parents can do to help is schedule “play” time for students to use Big Brainz.  On average, students will need about 6 hours of play to master their multiplication facts.

Ready to See Results?

Teachers can log in to view reports and track individual student progress using their Campus Password (district credentials required to view page.)  To learn more, visit the Big Brainz Resources found on iCafe.

Email Etiquette Top 10 List

Much of our professional life revolves around social media and interaction with others.  Even with the introduction of all the new platforms, email still plays a major role in day to day activities at work.  We must be careful that how we are perceived through email paints a proper picture of ourselves.  On a professional level, there are certain rules that you should follow.  Proper email etiquette is important in establishing and maintaining a good professional relationship.

After doing a little research and discussing this topic with my fellow Instructional Technology Specialists here at Lamar Consolidated ISD, I have come up with a Top 10 List for Email Etiquette.  We recorded a video for it in our studio to share with all of you.  Without further delay, here is ourTop 10 List:

There are many resources, both videos and cheat sheets, concerning email with Outlook 2013 as well as other Office products,  available in our resource section under the Office icon.  To go directly to the Outlook 2013 resources, click here.

Facebook Page Creation Tips for Educators

You may have used Facebook to connect with friends from the past, and even chat online, but have you considered harnessing the power of Facebook to improve classroom communication?  With more than one billion users on facebook each month, it’s certainly an idea worth considering.  Social Media in education can be a bit of a tricky tight-rope, so before you log in, be sure to consider the tips below!

Tip #1 – Get Focused

kid_with_binoculars2 Before you touch a keyboard, or investigate the ins and outs of your school’s electronic media policy, you’ll need to determine your goals and objectives.  How many times a week will you post?  What kinds of things will you post?  Who is your intended audience?  Having a plan that takes those questions into account will go a long way in helping you to develop a Facebook page that is focused and full of useful information for educational stakeholders.

 Tip #2 – Consider the Powers that Be


Next, you’ll want to know (and follow) your school and/or district policies regarding electronic communication.  In Lamar CISD, teachers are encouraged to “talk” where educational stakeholders are listening and we’ve put together a helpful video that highlights 8 Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of Electronic Communication with Students that is worth checking out.If your school or district does not yet have a policy governing the use of electronic communication or social media, then guess who can to volunteer to help write the policy?  That’s right…you can!Once you’ve determined that you’ve got the green flag from your school or district, be sure to give your administrator a heads-up about what you’ve got cookin.’  Be prepared to share the goals and rational behind your plan, if for no other reason than so your administrator can brag about you at school board meetings!  Seriously though, no administrator likes to be in the dark about innovative new tools that their teachers are using.  So keep them informed!

 Tip #3 – Create a Page

The best way for many educators to use Facebook safely with parents and students, is to create a Class Facebook Page, which is different from using a personal Facebook account to connect to students.  Anyone can “Like” the Page you’ve created, and once they do, the items posted on your Class Facebook Page stream into your follower’s Facebook newsfeed.  To get started creating your page, visit: and choose the type of page you’d like to create.   Personally, I recommend choosing “Company, Organization or Institution” if you’re mostly wanting to post items like you would on a community bulletin board.Once you’ve created a page, you’re officially the “Administrator” of that page.  This means you can post status updates, links and photos, as well as fine-tune your page settings.  A Facebook page can have more than one administrator, which is great if you’d like to collaborate with other colleagues on your grade level or within your department.  Just be sure all administrators are aware of your page’s intended goals and objectives, along with school policy!

Tip #4 – Get a Tune-Up

Facebook - Use Facebook As... After you’ve created your Class Facebook Page, it’s time to give the page settings a quick tune-up.  For the most part, the Facebook Page Creation Wizard will walk you through the important stuff like adding a profile image and page description, but there are a few additional items that are worth considering. First off, it’s important to know that you can choose to post to Facebook as your Class Facebook Page, rather than as yourself.  To do this, simply click the Gear in the top right hand corner, and choose which alias you’d like to use for posting.
Facebook - Edit Page Tab Next, you’ll definitely want to be aware of  who can post to your page, and what they can post.  To set things straight, simply click “Manage Permissions” from the “Edit Page” tab of your Administration Panel.  You’ll want to pay special attention to the following check-boxes:

  • Posting Ability – Are you simply in need of a one-way billboard?  If so, restrict the ability for others to post images, links and text to your page.
  • Post Visibility – Personally,  I think “Recent Posts by Others” doesn’t need to be on a class/school page, but you’ll know pretty quickly what works for you.
  • Default Visibility of Posts –  Again, I set mine to “Hidden” because I want to keep a pretty tight rein on the content posted on my page
  • Tagging Ability – Do you want other Facebook users to have the ability to add tags to the photos you post?  If so add a check to this box.  I keep mine unchecked because I don’t want anyone to add tags with student names to my photos.
  • Messages – You can elect to add the message button to your facebook page.  Since my primary mode of communication with parents/students who have one-on-one messages for me is email (for archival purposes)  I don’t have this button on my page.
  • Moderation Blocklist – If you need to block any specific terms from being posting to your page, you can add them here.
  • Profanity Blocklist – Set this to “Strong”

 Tip #5 – Post Great Content & Connect

Once you’re comfortable with your settings (keep in mind, you can tweak them at any time!) it’s time to begin posting some content to your page.  To be as effective as possible with your posts, it’s important to post somewhat regularly, at times when people will be checking their Facebook Newsfeeds (like before/after school, and at lunch.)  Lucky for you, posts can be scheduled in advance, so if you are uber-organized (unlike me) you could post a bunch of things all at one sitting, but schedule them out so that they actually appear on Facebook throughout the week.  Things you might want to post include:

  • Reminders for upcoming exams, project due dates, or classroom events
  • Links to thought provoking information, resources or videos you’d like students to investigate on their own
  • Photos of students engaged in successful learning activities

When posting photos, you’ll want to be sure to follow your school or district’s policy regarding the use of student images online.  In our district, we are allowed to post photos of any student who has not given their school written documentation that they do not want their image used online.  That being said, as an educator, I would never post a student’s picture captioned with their full name.  Others may disagree, but I would rather error on the side of digital safety.

Posting helpful content and links will help to grow your audience, but another way to build your community is to have your page “Like” various other pages related to your classroom or community.  You also might want to consider the options available under the “build your audience” tab at the top of your admin panel.  Before long, you’ll have an audience that’s hanging on your every word.  Well…ok, maybe not…but at least they’ll have another great way to get reminders and resources!

Tip #6 – Everything is Public

footprint-3099_640 I was going to finish with 5 Tips, but Tip #6 is just so important, I couldn’t leave it off.  Whether I’m working with teachers or students, I always emphasize the fact that no matter how private you THINK you’re being online, you’d be much better off  working with the assumption that your mother and your employer are both reading every single thing you post.  With this in mind, you’re sure to be proud of the digital footprint you leave behind.

Be proud of the digital footprint you leave behind!

Are You Talking Where They’re Listening?

In Lamar CISD we encourage educators to “talk” where educational stakeholders are listening. This often involves the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Before beginning to use social media to surround your students in a learning network it’s important to consider district policy, as it relates to electronic communication with students and parents.   Naturally, our School Board has a Written Policy for Employee Standards of Conduct (June 2011), but to help clarify LCISD’s Electronic Media Policy even further, the iCafe team has put together a video to help educators make good choices.  Posted below are The Top 8 Guidelines For Acceptable Use of Electronic Media by Educators.  If you’re interested in viewing the FULL VERSION of this video, CLICK HERE.

The Top 8 Guidelines For Acceptable Use of Electronic Media by Educators

Best of the Week – December 14, 2012


Each week our Instructional Technology Team meets and shares the best ideas that crossed our Twitter feeds, RSS Readers, and minds as we were out working with teachers.  Recently it occurred to us that we should be sharing our Best of the Week with you all!  So here’s this week’s installment.  Enjoy!




Digital Footprints

This week there was lots of great discussion about the need for parent and students to become more familiar with the importance of creating a digital footprint to be proud of.

Two Resources that were mentioned as tools that may be used as our district develops a plan for a Digital Parent Education Night are Eanes ISD Digital Parent Night Panel Discussion and LOL…OMG by Matt Ivester

In terms of assisting students to become more web-literate, Alan November has some great resources for teachers as they begin to plan lessons. In Addition, a-Google-A-Day is a fun way to challenge students to validate what they find on the internet.

Algebra I Quiz Bowl – Video Conference

This week our Math Curriculum Specialist, Pam Palmer collaborated with our Technology Development Team in order to begin planning the first annual Algebra Bowl which will invite Algebra I students to participate via video conference in the (hopefully) annual event. Interested in challenging our kiddos?  Let us know!

#TXed Twitter Chat

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Mark Wednesday evening as “booked” on your calendar – and spend some time discovering all the great things educators throughout Texas are up to via the #TXed Twitter chat.  Brilliant minds and brilliant questions.  Don’t miss out!



LEGO Creationary

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It builds, you guess!  Play collaboratively!



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Turn your iOS device into a collaborative whiteboard.


Red Stamp

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Challenge your class to create, write and send cards to one another via email!  Authentic writing, anyone?



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Use a Teacher iPad to control the content viewed on student iPads.  COOL!


Animation Desk

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Intuitive drawing environment that can be used to build animated movies.




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Share your computer display with up to 5 devices with web browsers for FREE!


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Collection of high quality, common-core aligned lessons.  And the best part?  Learnzillion is a FREE APP within Edmodo – so teachers can assign tasks and post resources to students from directly within edmodo.


YouTube EDU

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YouTube is FULL of great content to share with your students.  On the downside, it’s full of a bunch of…well, you know, as well.  Enter the EDU portal of YouTube.  Search by grade level, category, and keyword to find exactly what you need…without having to worry about all the inappropriate junk that might pop up on the side!


Mapping Media to the Curriculum

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Choose from the menu board what you want students to create and you’re instantly given lesson ideas, an over view of the project’s work-flow and links to additional resources. A “MUST FAVORITE” site for any educator.


Free Music Archive

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Great resource for educators who need to collect royalty free music to use for video/audio projects.  Caution:  Some songs include lyrics that are not “student friendly” and for this reason, we would like to caution you to limit the use of this site to “educator use only.”




Debut Video Capture

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Capture video from your PC and output to a variety of formats.

Note:  Be sure to uncheck the “Ask” tool bar ad-ins during installation.



Can Texas Secede?

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Spoiler Alert:  No – But it sure is interesting to discuss why not!








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What kid wouldn’t want to create a dollhouse they wired themselves?

Goldie Blox

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Engineering toy designed to inspire invention and problem solving.


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Wirelessly connect your iPad to any TV or Projector – Great for those of us on networks that aren’t able to use Apple TV!

Saw Stop

Innovative new braking system stops table saw when it touches flesh, minimizing and even eliminating injury.  Check out the hot dog video!


Saving Transition Time

Transitioning in the classroom seems like a small thing.  It only takes a few minutes to transition from one subject/class to another.  If the kids are running a bit slow, 2-3 minutes might turn into 5-6 minutes.  That is a small amount, right?

Take into consideration the number of times a day you are transitioning from one thing to another.  Is it 4,5,6…more?  Let’s settle on 6 transitions a day.  At 5 minutes each you have just used a half-hour of teaching time…each day!  That is 2.5 hours a week.  For a 36 week schedule that is 90 hours a year.  It adds up fast.  Imagine being able to get even half of that time back…

Teachers are finding that music is a great way to make transitions smoother and more efficient in their classroom.  By spending a few minutes to introduce the concept they are saving hours in the long run.  Students will quickly associate the song to the task at hand and start the process as soon as they hear it.  By utilizing the same song every day, students also start to understand how much time they have by recognizing how much of the song is left.  Add in the fact that it is more fun than hearing the teacher say 25 times that “it is time to go” and I am sold!

I know what many of you may be thinking, “That is a great idea, but how am I going to get that done every day?  I have enough trouble keeping up with what I am doing now.”  I hear you loud and clear!  You don’t need another thing to do every day.  Wouldn’t it be nice to set your computer to automatically play your transitions every day?  Let me introduce you to the Task Scheduler.

The Task Scheduler can be accessed through your start menu under accessories.  It will allow you to set as many tasks as you want as often as you want.  All you will need to do is have your music files stored on your computer so they can be accessed by the scheduler.  To learn how to do this, a cheat sheet has been created to walk you through the process on a Windows machine.

If you are looking for some music to use for this task or for any other projects you are doing in class, is a great place to go.  All the music there is royalty and copyright free.  It is all instrumental so you have no worries about lyrics either.  To learn more about FreePlayMusic and how to download from the site, refer to this cheat sheet.

Gain some of your valuable classroom time back.  Give the Task Scheduler a try!

LCISD 2012 Student Mock Elections

Mock ElectionHi everyone!

We are really excited about the Lamar CISD 2012 Student Mock Election! Our kids are going to have such a great experience voting online. I wanted to give you some information so that you know how your students can be involved in this year’s mock election.

Online Voting:

Begins on Monday, October 29th
Ends on Thursday, November 1st at 5:00PM
-To access the link for online voting, CLICK HERE!

 When a student votes online, he/she will need their student ID number. Teachers will need to have a class list with ID numbers in case the student does not know it.

Mock Election Rescources:

Also, we have a Mock Election website with classroom resources that include lesson plans, activities, and strategies along with resources for the election. It is important that instruction take place prior to voting that covers our country’s voting process, our responsibility to be an informed voter, and why it is so important that we don’t take this freedom for granted. CLICK HERE to access the Mock Election resources page.

VERY IMPORTANT: Please watch the video below for a demonstration on how a student is going to vote online and receive additional information on this district event.

If at any time you need help or have questions please call me at ext 0142 or by email.

Looking forward to see how our kids vote in the election.

-Kevin McCune


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INTERACT 2012 Application!

Are you ready? Excited? Can hardly contain your enthusiasm?! Well…neither can we! It’s time to open up the INTERACT 2012 Application! YAY!

Here are the basics that you should know before you fill out the application:


For the fifth time Lamar CISD is gearing up for a staff development like no other. INTERACT is designed to provide attendees with research based teaching strategies paired with outstanding examples of technology integration. In fact that is what INTERACT stands for, INtegrating TEchnology Realistically Among Classroom Teachers. Our goal is to pair fantastic teaching with amazing technology and make it feel second nature to you. We recognize that for a teacher to feel comfortable with the technology they need to have regular access to it rather than simply checking it out once a semester. That goal, along with a firm belief that only you, the teacher, can best decide which of the many technologies best suit your style and meet your student’s needs, compels us to follow up the training with the chance for you to outfit your classroom with some cutting edge technology.

Who can apply?

You apply as a team and each campus has one team…except High Schools, which can now have two!

  • Teams must contain 2-4 members
  • Teams must represent at least two grade levels for Elementary or two subject areas for Secondary
  • Teams may contain one specialist (Facilitator, Special Ed, etc.) per team

How do you apply?

There are a few steps you will need to follow in order to apply for INTERACT 2012:

STEP 1: Complete the “Intent to Apply” – ALL teams that hope to attend INTERACT 2012 MUST complete the “Intent to Apply” by Feb. 1, 2012! You don’t have to be ready to fill out your application by Feb. 1st, you just have to have let us know that you are

STEP 2: Complete the “INTERACT Individual Application” – This is a quick three question form that helps us know who you are as a teacher and professional. Be honest and show off how great you are!

STEP 3: Create the a fun and creative video with your team answering the following prompt:

“Why do you NEED to attend INTERACT?”

We will be evaluating each video on its creativity, vision on education, and demonstration that all of your team members had a role in creating it! The video should be no less than two minutes long and no more than four! After you are done, your team will upload the video to YouTube and share it with us via the “INTERACT 2012 Team Application“.

When does all this need to be done?!

Here are your deadlines and important dates, so write these down NOW!

What if this all sounds too intimidating or I don’t know where to start or I just have additional questions?!?!?!?

Easy! Contact your CITS! They would love to help you find a great team, let you know when video trainings are available, or simply tell you how great INTERACT is.

We are so excited about this year’s INTERACT…it’s going to be the best one yet! And we hope you’ll be a part of it!


T3 Retreat Two Weeks Away!

We are two weeks away from the T3 mini-conference and we are REALLY excited about the lineup of session we have scheduled. This summer we have presenters from within LCISD, educators from other districts, and even from some of our vendors! Here’s a quick sampling:

  • Promethean Board – from using textbook materials to enhancing your PowerPoints
  • SMART Board – both math and science specific sessions as well as troubleshooting sessions and using your SMART Slate
  • iPad – the best apps, using it to teach
  • An intro to Edmodo
  • Moving into Moodle
  • Project Share Introduction
  • And more!!

This is going to be a great day for teachers from all over the area to get some great ideas for integrating technology in their classroom next year!

This year, we will be meeting at Reading J.H. on June 30th, from 8:30 – 4:00. For more information, check out the T3 Site and be sure to take a look at the schedule!

We look forward to seeing you all in two weeks!


Looking Back on INTERACT 2011

We had an incredible week at the INTERACT 2011 Academy! We had over 100 teachers come through the program last week and they all did an incredible job! At this training the Technology Staff Development team takes the instructional strategies outlined in Robert Marzano’s book Instructional Strategies that Work and show participants how those strategies plus supporting technology tools can turn their classrooms into an incredibly powerful learning environment!

We are so proud of how this year’s teams were so open to learning new concepts and tools and we know it is going to have a HUGE impact on our district next year! We encourage you to check out the iCafe YouTube channel to see some of the products they created. And for any INTERACT participants out there, share with the world what you learned in the comments section below…and be sure to include your blog so they can see what you are doing with your new knowledge!