Archive for category Best Practices in Education

T3 – Teaching Through Technology Conference

T3 - Teaching Through Technology

We are so excited to announce the dates for this year’s T3 – Teaching Through Technology – Conference. T3 is a two day conference put on by the LCISD Technology Staff Development team where teachers, technologists, trainers, and more come together to share ideas and learn from each other on how they use technology in their classrooms! The goal is to come together and learn from each other the best methods for integrating technology in our classrooms. So, here are a few of the details for you:

Dates: Wednesday, June 29th & Thursday, June 30th

Time: 8:30 – 4:00 each day

Where: Reading Junior High

Call for Presenters!

One of the most important parts of T3 is YOU! Without you, we can’t put this on! So, we need your help…we need presenters! We are looking for teachers or trainers that have great ideas and lessons of how others can be using technology in their classroom. It could be on a specific tool, a new way of tackling a skill through technology, or simply a discussion of how technology has changed your classroom! Visit the the session proposal page and send in your session idea! All proposals are due by May 4th and we will notify you if your proposal has been accepted on May 9th.

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Cache In

You’ve poured over the cheatsheets,  you’ve scoured the blog post,  you may have even been on a geocache yourself!  Still…let’s not kid ourselves; organizing a successful educational geocache for the first time can be a little intimidating.

A few weeks ago I geocached with a bunch of kindergarteners.  Talk about engaged!  These kids were intrigued not only by the GPS unit itself, but couldn’t wait to find and complete the learning challenge hidden within the next geocache.  Students were exactly the way every teacher wants to see them…collaboratively engaged in active learning. As I helped the kindergarten team prepare for the big day, it occurred to me that there are a few things that every rookie educational geocacher should know.

1.        Keep it simple. From the learning activity hidden inside each geocache to the organization of waypoints.  Believe me…simple is best – especially when you and your class are just getting a handle on geocaching.

2.       Have your students work in small groups. If enough GPS units are available, groups of 3 work best for most grade levels.  Keeping groups small allows all students to take turns using the GPS unit to lead their team in finding a cache.  It also means that everyone will have to pull their weight in order to work collaboratively on the learning challenge hidden inside the cache.

3.       Stop walking in circles. Here in LCISD we have a lot of Garmin etrex units which we love.  That being said, every time I help a class geocache I see the funniest thing…inevitably one group will walk around, very carefully in a circle.  Usually they don’t even know they’re doing it.  The trouble is that the GPS unit needs to be going about 20 feet in a single, steady direction before it can triangulate where you are and point you (see compass tool below) in the right direction.

The solution: Be sure to tell your kids that they need to look at the numbers in the “distance to next” window.  If the numbers are going down…they’re moving toward the cache. If the numbers increase…students are moving in the wrong direction.

4.       Listen for the BEEP. Commercially available GPS units are not accurate to the inch, or even the foot.  They’re a little bit off.  So once you get about 40 feet or so from the cache, your GPS unit will usually beep to alert you that you need to begin a visual search.  Some students assume the GPS unit will lead them right on top of the cache.  This is not usually the case.  Once you hear the beep, a visual search for the cache should begin.

5.       Create reusable caches. For rookies, a cache is what is being hidden and marked by the GPS unit so that students can find it later. It may (and probably will) hold some type of learning activity, review, or challenge.   A cache (the container holding the directions and supplies) can be anything, but here are a few ideas that work well:

  • Manila folders – keep it simple, right?
  • Inexpensive, watertight, plastic containers – These work great, especially if you’ll be putting an iPod, or camera inside.  Several sports and outdoor stores carry camouflage  tape year round that can be used to wrap around the container’s sides and bottom (you don’t have to cover the lid, just put the cache top down if you’re hiding it on the ground.)  Believe me – if you spend a little time making these containers you’ll use them over and over!
  • Camouflage eggs – Believe it or not, these are available at most stores around Easter time.  They’re impossible to find at other times of the year, so stock up!
  • Baby food containers – Often free if you know a parent with a little one!  Camouflage tape can also be used to cover these small containers.

6.       Make a map. Even if you’re the only instructor involved in the cache, it’s often helpful to draw a quick map of “what’s hidden where” so that you know which cache corresponds to which learning activity.  This will help you as you monitor a group of students who are moving from cache to cache.

7.       Bring a friend or a bullhorn. If you’re monitoring a large group over a large area both another teacher AND a bullhorn may be necessary.  It goes without saying that you and the other teacher should spread out and positions yourselves so that you can monitor students at all times.  The bullhorn will save your voice, legs, or both.  The “alarm” on the bullhorn may also be used as an indicator letting students know they should move on to the next cache.

8.       Communicate. Be sure to let your entire campus know (especially if you’re in Elementary!) that your class will be geocaching.  This will help (but not totally prevent) things like younger students out at recess moving your caches, or older students being reported for seeming to wander around outside.

9.       “Stuff” the cache. Working collaboratively, moving around outside, and using a GPS unit is great, but the real focus of your geocache is the learning challenge or activity hidden within the cache right?   Need some ideas along those lines?  Here’s a list to get you started courtesy of http://digitalgoonies.com/ (Great blog to follow by the way!)   Don’t forget that putting learning tools like Digital Cameras and Flip Cams inside a cache – along with any other learning materials – allow students to record their learning for simple playback (and grading) later.  iPod Touches loaded with videos from Discovery Education or voice memos from the teacher are another great tool…just be sure to remember Tip #10!

10.   Bring it in. That’s right! Be sure to bring all caches and their contents inside once you’ve finished.  Once I lent my caches to a team of teachers who all assumed someone else’s class was going to bring my containers in when their class was done.  Long story short, several of my plastic containers sat outside all week, and though they were camouflaged, the district’s mower had no trouble finding… and annihilating them.

Whether you’re an experienced educational geocacher or rookie of the year – please be sure to share any other tips for a successful geocache with us!  GPS units, iPods, Digital Cameras, and Flip Cams are all available for check out through the district, and may even be available at your home campus already!  Check with your Elementary or Secondary CITS for more information.

Happy Geocaching!

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ActivInspire Containers Made Easy

Paul in a BarrelLoving ActiveInspire but would like that little extra push to really get the best out of the product? Visit the planet…Promethean Planet!  Among other things, Promethean has many short, useful “How to” videos , called ActivTips, on their site that are great for a quick tip or lesson on their software.

A recent video posted addresses containers.  Cointainers are a great way to have students self-check their work.  For instance, if the activity is matching words to their definitions a container will only allow the correct answer inside it.  If a student tries placing an incorrect answer in the container it will “spit it out” prompting the student to try again.  Great news…they have a resource pack with the containers already created!  Drag them from your resource library and it is done…ingenious!  This will save you a ton of prep time.  Check out the video here… http://bit.ly/hF0HOD

After watching the video, if you are as excited about this as I am, go to Promethean Planet and search for container resource packs.  There are two I have downloaded so far…”ContainersEasy1″ and ContainersEasy2.”  A tutorial comes within each resource pack to show how to use the containers.

For further help, don’t forget to check out the Resources section on our icafe website.  There are many cheat sheets that have been created to help with the Inspire software as well as many other technology tools.

Have fun creating…I can hardly CONTAIN myself!!!

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The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators

This week, a brand new FREE ebook was published that does an amazing job of discussing the tools, techniques, and ideas for using technology in the classroom, and we wanted to make sure you got a look! This is a great resource and we hope you take some time to look through it and gain some new ideas!

For more information on the authors, the ideas, and how this was put together, check out the Free Technology for Teachers Blog!

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That’s a Wrap- INTERACT LE

Last week 25 librarians, facilitators and teachers from across the district gathered for our first INTERACT LE.  Each of our activities throughout the week incorporated technology, but were centered on Marzano’s Instructional Strategies that Work.  We looked at a variety of items and ideas such as iPods, student response systems, digital storytelling, claymation, and geocaching.  We also spent an afternoon looking at Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty with Randy Donnell, Rebecca Schultz, and Elsa Villarreal.

All the participants came in with a great attitude and really gave everything to make the week special.  It was an awesome week for the participants and even better for the CITS!  We loved the great personalities and ideas that were displayed throughout the week.

Just when the participants thought it was over, we had one more trick up our sleeves!  Take a look at the surprising ending to our week!

Thanks for an awesome week INTERACT LE 2010 participants!!

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What is your Hypothesis?

When you hear the words “Generating and Testing Hypotheses,” what is the first thing that pops into your mind?  For me, it’s the Scientific Method and science experiments, but the process of generating a hypothesis, testing it, and refining your thoughts and ideas happens across all content areas!

Whether it is doing role play in your English class to better understand what a character is going through or discussing what would happen to an ecosystem if an animal became extinct, you are taking a normal topic of your classroom and turning it into one where students have to think, evaluate, and really dig deeper into the material making it much more meaningful.

So what about your classroom? How can you use “Generating and Testing Hypotheses” to take your students to a whole new level and broaden the way they think and experience your class? Post your ideas in the comment section below and be sure you check out everyone else’s ideas to help move you along in your thinking!

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Out with the old… not necessarily

The INTERACT Classroom:

“I see the students being more engaged and thinking outside the box.” –Tiffany Garcia

“I see myself growing and I also see my students being more successful.”—Carmen Chavero

“My teaching is more diverse and differentiated and I am able to better meet the needs of all of my students in exciting and electrifying ways…my students are using a higher level of thinking.” –Shari Stanley

“The skills that I gained at INTERACT have allowed my students access to learning on a level I never thought possible.” –Keri Ruggeroli

“I no longer just teach the curriculum to the students, I immerse the students in the curriculum through the use of technology and learning strategies.” – Jennifer Wagner

“We are a paperless classroom and in Kinder, that is a big to do!” – Maria Aldana

“The discipline problems in my room are now at an all time low!  The students enjoy coming to school to learn… I hear them say, ‘I love school!’”—Dustina Roden

Will this be your classroom?

Does this sound like something you can say, or hear your students say about your classroom?  Think about those lessons you’ve been teaching year after year after year.  Now, imagine Marzano’s strategies, iPods, interactive whiteboards, blogs, Moodle, video conferencing, and digital storytelling mixed in with those lessons.  Does that not get you energized?!  You’re students will feel the same way!

You’ve seen the statistics.  You’ve seen the tools.  You know the content…  what are you waiting for?

Interact Wordle

The Interact Wordle!

Don’t throw out those lesson plans of the past…electrify them!  How might your lesson of yesterday look tomorrow?  Please respond in the comment section below.

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INTERACT Support 2010

And now…the second round of INTERACT (Support) applications are now available!

We want to be up front with you, you will not earn any equipment, but the knowledge gained in the academy will challenge you as a learner and dramatically change the way you work with students.

Do you enjoy learning new ways of doing things? Are you tired of the same ol’ worksheets while using an overhead projector? Are you a team player and share with those around you? Then you might consider applying for INTERACT Support 2010. You will be immersed with Marzano’s researched based instructional strategies as we show you how to effectively integrate technology into your curriculum.

Who: Certified Professional Staff (anyone with a teaching certificate is welcome to apply)
When: August 2-6, 2010
Where: LCISD- Annex building
Time: 7:30 am – 4:00 pm (lunch will NOT be provided)

An expectation upon academy completion is that you will become an instructional technology support line for your campus staff. Whether that means you provide staff development opportunities on campus or “just in time” technology support, you will be there to help your campus use technology in their curriculum in the best ways possible!

Please find the link to the application HERE. Applications are blindly graded by 3 different people using a rubric found HERE.

We will be accepting applications from April 12-30, 2010. Thank you for your interest!!!

Application is HERE

Rubric is HERE

INTERACT 3- 2010


It is a new year, a new look, and it is that time again…INTERACT applications are now available!

Do you enjoy learning new ways of doing things? Are you tired of the same ol’ worksheets while using an overhead projector? Are you a team player and share with those around you? Then you might consider applying for INTERACT 3. You will be immersed with Marzano’s researched based instructional strategies as we show you how to effectively integrate technology into your curriculum.

Who: Certified Classroom Teachers (you must be a teacher of record and have a class roster in Discovery)
When: June 7-11, 2010
Where: LCISD (school TBD)
Time: 7:30 am – 4:00 pm (lunch provided)

You must attend ALL 5 days. If you miss any part of INTERACT, you will forfeit your eligibility for any equipment at the end.  An expectation upon academy completion is that you will become an instructional technology support line for your campus staff.  Whether that means you provide staff development opportunities on campus or “just in time” technology support, you will be there to help your campus use technology in their curriculum in the best ways possible!

Please find the link to the application HERE.  Applications are blindly graded by 3 different people using a rubric found HERE.  Principals are also asked to submit an evaluation for each applicant.  The scores are then combined and the top 2 from each campus will be extended an invitation to attend!

***Note: You will be chosen for the campus in which you are applying.  If you receive a transfer, your application will go back into the pool of applicants for your new campus.

We will be accepting applications from March 1-12, 2010.  Thank you for your interest!!!

Application is HERE

Rubric is HERE

*For those of you that are certified teachers in a support staff role, we will be offering another INTERACT in August.  You will not earn any equipment, but the knowledge gained in the academy will challenge you as a learner and dramatically change the way you work with students.

Bringing Technology Home

When Mary Jo Munguia, a Jane Long Elementary School 3rd grade teacher and Interact II participant, sent a digital camera home with each of her students on the first day of school, I don’t think she fully anticipated the excitement that ensued or the effect it would have…

Who Are You?

The assignment was to take the camera home and define “who you are”. Pets, family members, bedrooms, toys, and silly faces soon filled the memory cards of each camera.

I wanted to give the students a chance to use the technology we have available at home as well as at school. The beginning of the year is great for this because students are excited to tell their new teacher and class about their families.

After students returned to school Mrs. Munguia helped her students insert their pictures and text onto Circle Thinking Maps using MS Word.  Because their teacher trusted them to take her cameras home, the end result was more than just another thinking map.

Who I am!

Who I am!

Not only did students learn to use a digital camera for this project, they manipulated text, inserted and resized photos, and created shapes to create their final Thinking Map.  Most importantly, they learned their teacher trusted them with a camera to use on their very own.  For many students, this was their first opportunity to use a digital camera by themselves.

The kids were excited.  They seemed proud to be trusted with the cameras.  At Open House, some of the parents and students asked about the project, which made me feel good.  I knew they were talking about it…

It made me feel proud to know that I had touched some of my students lives.  I loved seeing the kids’ pictures, and it was exciting to see their proud faces at open house.

For some teachers, loaning out $1,600 worth of digital cameras to a bunch of 3rd graders might be more than they could handle, but by allowing these kids to bring home those pieces of equipment, not only did Mrs. Munguia help these students bridge the digital divide, she was able to take a simple project and turn it into an edifying experience of self worth for her students.  This takes “bringing technology home” to a whole new level!