iPad Projects created with Animoto!

Our middle school ESL students participating in the iPad pilot are having a blast CREATING with their iPads! One of their favorite (free!) apps thus far is Animoto!

Their teacher recently taught a lesson on “Feelings” and sent students on a Google Search to find photographs of people whom expressed specific emotions or feelings.  Once the photographs were chosen, students took screenshots with their iPads, which added the images to the iPad’s camera roll. Using the Animoto app, the kids uploaded their images, entered text, music and transitions to create a customized presentation on the assigned topic.

Here are some examples of the students’ work: They did a GREAT job and had loads of fun working on the project.

Jennifer: “Emotions”

Vanessa: “Feelings”


Just Say NO to Paper!

I write a lot about iPads. I think my fascination with iPads in education comes from the transformative power they have to eliminate pencils, paper, binders, spiral notebooks from the classroom environment. I dislike paper. I just don’t find it easy to organize and I think many students have the same problem. I remember many of my third graders would have desks stuffed full of papers that were months old or incomplete. It’s just not very practical for some students. I was one of those students and still am, really.The iPads that we are piloting at a high school and middle school in my district have allowed the students and teachers in this pilot to work in a virtually paperless environment and it’s all because of a few of my favorite apps, which I’ll discuss in this post.One of the apps that allows students and teacher to “go paperless” is Evernote. It is a GREAT, free app! Today I had the opportunity to teach a class about Evernote at the high school where we are conducting one of our 1:1 iPad pilots…BUT.. I didn’t drive there. Since the class started at 7:15, 45 minutes before my work day begins, I decided to teach the class virtually! Yesterday I asked the teacher to test a new process with me. I set up my laptop and displayed a live shot of my iPad screen in Chrome using a nifty little app called Display Recorder. I “Skyped” the teacher (She used Skype on her iPad) and shared my screen with her. She confirmed that she was able to see a live, moving shot of my iPad. Perfect!

This morning I “Skyped” the high school class where the teacher had connected her iPad to her projector so that her entire class could see the live shot of my iPad screen. I led them through the process of signing up with an Evernote account using their Gaggle e-mail addresses and then walked students through the basic features of the app. It was a true success and the principal was even in the classroom to observe. He filmed the experience on his iPad and was very pleased with what he observed, according to the teacher.

The students are now in the process of creating an English portfolio that they will share with their teacher. The premium version of Evernote allows the teacher to EDIT student notebooks for revision purposes, so we may test this out in the future as well.

Our students are now using a combination of Notability (to annotate graphic organizers, handouts, etc.), Gaggle and Evernote to transition from paper, pencils and spiral notebooks to full-on digital. The awesome thing for our ESL students is that Evernote and Notability allows students to capture images and even audio notes, which are helpful supports in learning the language.

The best feature of Evernote, in my opinion, is that users are given a free “Evernote Upload” e-mail address that is linked directly to the Evernote account. So my next task is to teach students to e-mail work in Notability to their Evernote upload e-mail addresses so that notes are automatically pushed into Evernote notebooks. Sending an email to that address will
create a new note in Evernote using the email subject as the note title, the email body as the note body and the source email address as the note author. This is just brilliant!

We do not allow our students to bring their iPads home due to safety and security issues, but we are encouraging those with computers at home to access their work in iCloud and Evernote. Thus, NO paper to bring home!

Our students are having fun saving paper, are YOU? And HOW?

The iPad is not a Laptop

I am fortunate to work in a department that has the funding to employ two full time technology resource teachers; I, being one of them, have the great responsibility of supporting all 250+ ESL teachers with tech integration ideas, technical support and hardware.

This past school year I have had the opportunity to work with two amazing ESL teachers on a 1:1 iPad pilot in their middle and high school classrooms. The goal of this pilot is to encourage students to learn in a digital, paperless environment while producing projects to be included in their personal digital portfolios.

As many iPad users already know, the iPad is a single user device and it works best in a 1:1 where one student is assigned his or her own iPad. The iPad was never meant to be a shared device because there is no login like there is on a traditional desktop or laptop. This has been a point of contention in the pilot in that it seems that we are not getting “bang for our buck” with only 40 students having access to these iPads.

It is obvious to me and many other iPad users that there is a shift occurring in the business world, in education and in life in general. People do everything with their “device,” whatever that device may be. Some sort of device is with most indivdiuals on a daily basis. Whether it be a Blackberry that one is sending a text message from or an iPhone that one is scanning an important document to and sending along to his or her boss…everyone is connected. Everyone has some device that allows them to improve his or her productivity in life, in school or in the workplace.

School administrators and even corporate executives have taken note of the benefits of using a device to increase and improve productivity. This is why some firms hand out iPads to their employees and many school districts have begun 1:1 initiatives where ALL students have iPads or Chromebooks.  The vision is that students can keep all of their class notebooks saved on ONE device, create movies and presentations on ONE device, email all of their teachers from ONE device and then go home with that device or access their work on that ONE device from “the cloud.”

The fact is, most adults have some device or tool that they use daily, nightly and weekly to stay connected, to be productive, to learn and to create. Why not at least prepare our students for the future that is already upon us?

Going Paperless with Ipads


Jenny Grabiec, the brains and vision behind our ipad pilot, acquired the grant for our class set of Ipads based on our promise to create a paperless classroom. Brilliant! Marrying a green intiative to a tech intitiative!

She chose the right teacher for this project because I actually feel genuine guilt everytime I put scraps of paper in the trash or recycle bin. And as a teacher, I know first hand what amazing and shameful amounts of paper are consumed at schools every day of the year. The cool thing is, using the ipads as our primary learning tool, going paperless is well within reach.

Prior to ipads, my students kept everything in a spiral paper notebook. They used their notebooks for writing and warm-ups, and also glued loose homework worksheets, returned projects, tests and other miscellaneous paper bits inside.

These items were the first and bulk of paper waste to be…

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Fun with iPads



I visited a school today that was once a high school, but has been transformed into a K-8. I found one of our laptop carts in the media center, all dusty and pushed to the side in a corner. I moved it into one of our ESL classrooms, since the other classroom lacked space, and the teacher pretty much said in so many words, “What do I do with this?” I smiled and thought to myself, “What am I doing?” Why am I putting a cart full of 15 wireless laptops into a classroom when the teacher doesn’t really appear to want it? I mean, some teachers would DIE to have laptops in their classroom, but some teachers could care less and don’t understand the value of having this technology at their fingertips.

A lot of the technology that was purchased by this department was purchased before I started. One of my responsibilities in this department is to keep a technology budget and order equipment that can be used in the ESL classroom with ELLs. My philosophy is – Don’t just order technology because the school’s numbers increased and gained a new teacher. I want the teacher to tell me WHY he or she needs the technology and what he or she is going to DO with it! Most importantly, I want to know how the students will use it! Not a week goes by where I don’t run into a teacher who is afraid to let kids touch the technology. My new plan is to stop ordering new laptop carts, iPads, document cameras, video cameras, etc. until I implement a proposal system. I am going to ask my teachers to submit proposals explaining why he or she wants and/or needs new equipment and how he or she plans to use that equipment. I would like to go even further and ask teachers to agree to share student-created projects, helping to document how the new equipment is being used.

Sometimes teachers need help coming up with a proposal or plan and I think that is also a responsibility of mine. Sometimes teachers don’t know what the technology can do and cannot proceed with a proposal. I have a lot of respect for the teachers who admit that they aren’t sure what to do with the technology, but many of them want to learn and would like to do so before being thrown into a 1:1 classroom. We offer a LOT of PD from Discovery Education to free web tools and so on. But I don’t think that’s enough. PD is great, but a lot of time teachers have trouble applying what was learned in a full day workshop once they go back to the classroom. As tech integration specialists, we need to do more than traditional PD. As much as possible, and maybe with only a handful of teachers each year, we need to PLAN – MODEL – OBSERVE – COACH. This means going into the classroom and working with teachers during their planning times; getting up in front of the class and working with students on lessons and projects; letting go of the reins and observing the teacher and then coaching him or her by offering praise and constructive feedback. Yes, time is an issue, and I work with over 250 ESL teachers, but my plan is to select a group of teachers that want to know more about technology integration and have made it one of their annual goals for this school year. PD is great, but we must not forget that it involves planning, modeling, observing and coaching!

The green screen kit has arrived!


1 of the 2 soft boxes has been installed! My kids are ready to make a music video. 🙂

THIS is why I became a teacher!

I had the pleasure of working with ESL students and teachers at the ESL Summer Academy for the past two weeks. Students wrote scripts and rehearsed presentations on Human Body Systems and The American Revolution; two of the many topics that they have been studying this summer.

 The teachers picked the topic and set the objectives, requiring that the students select the appropriate videos from Discovery Education and write a script for their assigned section. We set up a “green screen” and students filmed one another speaking their parts. We used the FLIP Mino and imported the video clips into Adobe Premiere Elements. I then coached two students on video editing and worked with them on superimposing students into the Discovery Education videos. Super easy! The production was probably 95% student-directed. They needed a little guidance in using Adobe Premiere and repeating parts, but other than that, the students rocked this! 

Project-based learning in the classroom is a new endeavor here, let alone in the ESL classroom, and I am thrilled to kickoff this initiative with such a great first project! Obviously we are taking baby steps, so students will need to work on speaking up (They do speak 2 or 3 languages, so I was IMPRESSED with their English language proficiency!!!) and looking at the camera more often. We will also use www.cueprompter.com next time so that students can read their script from a teleprompter to keep their eyes off the paper and on the camera! Remember, we only had 1.5 weeks to work on this project from start to finish, so just imagine what type of projects can be created each quarter!

They plan to present their final products to each ESL classs next week and the Chief Academic Officer will be in the audience!!!  WOW!

Our ESL students now have their own YouTube channel where the videos have been uploaded. You can view this channel by clicking on the following link:


The students and teachers had a wonderful time creating and we plan to do many more of these. Thanks for watching!


Closed Captioning for ELLs

How do we use closed captioning features with our students? Remember, closed captioning can be edited to change size, color and words in editable DE clips.

Our ELL educators brainstormed ideas this morning:
-Always run closed captions with videos if they are available
-Highlight key vocabulary words
-Ask comprehension questions
-Change the names of the characters
-Change vocabulary to make it comprehensible
-Turn off sound and have students read the words aloud
-Include translations
-Take extraneous information out
-Add one vocabulary word to describe a scene

What are some other ideas?

Unlocking Potential – ISTE 2011


I attended my first ISTE conference in Philadelphia from June 26 until June 29.. There were many interesting sessions to choose from and I feel that all the ones I chose to attend were valuable in many ways. Here is a short description of each session I attended and how I plan to utilize some of the ideas I learned about in my position as an ESL Technology Resource Teacher. 

The conference began with a keynote from Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist. His presentation moved quickly, but was pretty interesting! Dr. Medina explained that every brain is wired differently from every other brain. He challenged us as educators to see each student as a unique individual and to remember that fluid intelligence (problem solving) is just as, if not more important as crystallized intelligence (memorization). This keynote reemphasized my desire to bring project-based learning tools to our ESL teachers’ attention and to help support them with this style of facilitation in the classroom. It is key in the learning process.

Monday, June 27th Sessions

Meeting the Common Core: Rigorous, Relevant, Project-Based Learning Enhanced Through Technology
Dayna Laur, Buck Institute for Education with David Ross: Explore the power of technology-infused project-based learning as we move our students to deep understanding of the Common Core standards.

In this session I gained an understanding of how Project-Based Learning (PBL) connects to the Common Core Standards and 21st century readiness and ways in which technology supports the PBL classrooms that meets CC standards. The presenters gave several examples of ways in which teachers can move beyond traditional instruction and assessment methods to encourage long-term retention and skill development.

I plan on integrating some of the strategies shared at this session within the virtual course I am writing. It is entitled “Empower English Language Learners with Tools from the Web.”

Learning Tools Family Feud: Crowdsourced Edition
Joyce Valenza, School District of Springfield Township with Steve Dembo, Gwyneth Jones, Chad Lehman, Shannon McClintock Miller, Nicholas Provenzano and Matthew Winner: A favorite 70s game show with a fabulous 21st century twist. Listen in while our lively panel illustrates the results of a learning tools survey. 

This was a very entertaining, but extremely informational session which took the form of a game show while highlighting 21st century learning tools. A survey of 100 teachers were asked questions such as, “What is the best web tool for creating a digital story?” The responses were: Voicethread, Animoto, Storybird, Photostory and Prezi. Many of the tools I had already heard of, but this session helped illustrate how the tools are best used in the classroom.  

Many of our teachers get overwhelmed with the plethora of 21st century learning tools available for educators. I will take the information I gained from this session and enhance my web 2.0 workshops that I am planning for next school year. These workshops will be available as face to face and virtual sessions.

Infographics in the Classroom as a Creative Assessment
Kathy Schrock, Nauset Public Schools : An infographic is a graphic representation of information. Learn tips and tricks for using student-created infographics as an authentic assessment.

I’ve been using Kathy Schrock’s materials since my student teaching days and was very excited to attend this session. Kathy did not disappoint. She showed the packed ballroom of educators how infographics are created and allow the student to research, critique, summarize and communicate information in a visual way. Infographics-use in the classroom is a pretty new phenomenon that allow artistic, visual learners to display data and research as graphic representations. Students can use free drawing programs online or use more expensive programs, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements if available. There are many different types of visualization methods that a teacher could assign students to create. These visualization methods are found in a “Periodic Table of Visualization Methods” and include the following: data, information, concept, strategy, metaphor and compound.

I believe our ESL students would benefit from this type of assessment tool because it requires less written words and more graphics/charts/graphs while still demonstrating mastery. One of the tools used to create infographics is Glogster, which I have offered PD on in the past. I now plan to offer more sessions for our teachers this school year and tie in what I have learned about infographics.

Project-Based Learning in Hand
Tony Vincent, Tony Vincent Inc.: Hand-helds can play a significant role in project-based learning. See how the iPod touch and iPad can be used for planning, investigating, and presenting projects. 

This was probably my most favorite session of the entire conference because I am about to pilot iPads in two ESL classrooms this Fall. Tony is a proponent of project-based learning and using mobile devices in the classroom, so this was definitely a must-see! He began by explaining that the process for learning through projects is: 1) Question, 2) Investigate and 3) Share. Teachers need to give students time to be creative and produce. We start by asking the students a driving question that cannot be answered with yes or no. It must be researched and explored. Tony shared many apps for concept mapping and note taking that can be downloaded for the iPad. Students begin by researching and recording the information that they find and then they move on to building a presentation of this information either through audio, visuals or both! There are many audio and video apps available for the iPad such as Voice Memo, iMovie, and even comic strip designer apps.

I will be downloading many of these free or close-to-free apps onto our iPads to be used for the ESL iPad pilot this Fall. For example, students can use the SonicPics app to create digital stories all on the iPad and then present their work to others. The possibilities with the iPad are truly endless and fit nicely with project-based instruction in the classroom.

 Tuesday, June 28th Sessions

The Tuesday morning keynote was presented by Dr. Covey who wrote, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” His presentation was entitled, “Mindsets for the 21st Century: Unleashing Leadership Potential in Students.” Dr. Covey was joined by Muriel Summers, principal of a top-rated magnet school, and two of her brilliant students. Muriel Summers had all of her teachers read this book and implemented the system, which students follow, in her school. Before adopting the 7 Habits, the average reading score was 57.4%. It went up to 89.7% after one year. Math went from 77.4% to 100%. In my opinion, everyone should read this book! One big take away from this keynote, for me, was, remember to give students “voice and choice.”

The Tech Commandments: 10 Ways to Revitalize Education with Technology
Adam Bellow, eduTecher : Explore 10 ideas that will revitalize the thinking behind modern educational technology. The presentation is high-energy, engaging, motivating, and poignant. Video on demand can be viewed here

 This session addressed some of the common problems that occur in schools when it comes to successful technology integration. The tech commandments included:

1.    Training is Essential

2.    Money isn’t What Makes Educational Technology Work

3.    Restricting Access is Too Extreme

4.    Banning Tech Tools is Detrimental

5.    Teach with an Understanding of Today

6.    Collaboration is Key

7.    Schools Need Direction

8.    It’s Okay to Try

9.    Tech for Tech’s Sake Can be Worse than no Tech at All

10.  Understanding Buzz Words and Keep your Fingers on the Pulse

Many of the suggestions offered in this session will help as I develop my mission statement for ESL technology in this department. I feel that a well-developed plan must be created so that our ESL teachers are kept up to date on new technologies and feel supported in the process of integrating the tools properly. We want technology to enhance instruction, not replace instruction. Teachers instruct and facilitate with the support of web-based tools and devices, but it must be done correctly to be successful. These tech commandments are a wonderful guide in making sure this happens in a school district.

How to Get Teachers to Adopt Technology
Rushton Hurley, Next Vista for Learning: Digital tools create opportunities for powerful learning and professional growth. Learn techniques for inspiring your staff to discover their inner technophiles. 

This was another one of my favorite sessions of the conference. Rushton Hurley is a great presenter and offered many helpful suggestions to encourage teachers to stop fearing technology and just put it in the hands of our students. He shared his Dos and Don’ts philosophy, which will help me in my one on one sessions and whole group workshops with teachers that aren’t comfortable with technology and are scared to make a mistake. Here are Rushton’s Dos and Don’ts:

Don’t have teachers require themselves to be experts.
Do remind teachers of their expertise and reconnect teachers with the passions that they had when they first started teaching.

Don’t start with standards.
Do show something fun

Don’t sit everyone in a lab for training.
Do allow regular, short sharing time.

Don’t limit technology to labs.
Do show what’s possible with one or two computers in the classroom.

Don’t buy expensive software a teacher hasn’t used.
Do use what’s freely available.

Don’t blanket the campus with expensive hardware.
Do use targeted spending to focus purchases.

Part two of my ISTE 2011 Reflection will be posted shortly…