Sunday, July 27, 2014

Share Students With ClassDojo

With ClassDojo, teachers can now collaborate to improve student skills and behaviors and students build important skills across all of their classes and grade levels. ClassDojo, the popular behavior and skills development app used by millions of teachers around the world, recently released a new set of features aimed at teachers eager to work together on the application. Teachers across 180 countries already use ClassDojo daily to give feedback to students for important behaviors and skills like curiosity, participation, and grit. 

Until now, teachers could only encourage students in their own classes. With this new set of collaboration features, teachers within a school can safely connect with each other, give feedback within each other’s classes or for specific students, and even review student reports from other classes. Students will benefit greatly, too, as it becomes possible to track and reflect on their development across all classes, and even grade levels. 

Image Source: classdojo
With the release, ClassDojo takes one step towards realizing its mission of helping students build character strengths in schools and homes everywhere. Over the course of 2014, ClassDojo has launched multiple features which strengthen relationships between teachers, parents and students. As research shows, students learn important behaviors and skills faster when there is strong alignment and encouragement from all their teachers, peers and parents. Just as ClassDojo Messaging strengthens the parent-teacher relationship, Shared Classes and Shared Students creates stronger teacherteacher networks within schools: 

  • Shared Classes lets multiple educators teach the same class. This feature is especially useful for elementary school teachers, teaching assistants, and any situation where an entire class is taught by multiple teachers. 
  • Shared Students enables teachers in the same school to share students across different classes and view their student reports. Individual students can now move between different teachers and classes, but still build on their progress over time. This makes ClassDojo much more feasible for older grades, allowing teachers to better understand how their students are performing in other classes very quickly. Indeed, the company says this has been middle school and high school teachers’ greatest request. 
These two features have been beta-tested for some time ahead of this latest widespread release. As they are already well-received by early testers, the company expects to roll out many enhancements in the coming months, ultimately leading to easier sharing and collaboration between teachers in the same school. 
“The launch of Shared Classes and Shared Students is a huge moment for our teachers,” said Sam Chaudhary, CEO and cofounder of ClassDojo. “So far, millions of teachers have enjoyed using ClassDojo individually within their classrooms, and though it’s been effective, we believe teachers working together can unleash greater power from the platform. With today’s launch, for the first time, teachers are able to easily use ClassDojo together across their whole school or grade level. Teachers have a simple, nohassle, schoolwide system they can use to help students build skills and behaviors, students get more consistency across the school day, and parents finally get a unified view of what’s happening at school.” 

Shared Classes and Shared Students are available now, and teachers can access them by signing up for a free account at


As a ClassDojo Thought Partner, I receive information, updates, and pre-release information so that I may (at my own choosing) share on my own blog. There is no compensation from ClassDojo for anything I post here on

As a ClassDojo Thought Partner, I do write original content for ClassDojo to post to their site. For those posts, I do receive a monetary honorarium. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ISTE2014, LeVar Burton, and Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media Hosts Speaker Spotlight at ISTE 2014 Featuring LeVar Burton -- Actor and Co-Founder of Reading Rainbow -- on Kids and Reading in the Digital Age

Burton's "Inspiring Learning with Technology & Storytelling" presentation is part of Common Sense Media's focus on helping teachers discover the best tech tools for K-12 during the annual edtech conference starting this week in Atlanta.

On June 29, Common Sense Media, the national nonprofit dedicated to helping kids, parents, and educators thrive with media and technology, welcomes Emmy Award-winning actor and children's literacy advocate LeVar Burton to speak at ISTE 2014. Burton will address a capacity crowd at the Common Sense Media spotlight session about inspiring today's tech-savvy students to develop a lifelong love of reading.

"LeVar's message is timely and the audience at ISTE ideal for a discussion about technology's potential to engage and advance learning," said Mike Lorion, General Manager of Education at Common Sense Media. "Research suggests that adolescents are reading less for enjoyment, and that a significant reading achievement gap persists between white and minority students. How might technology inspire kids to read more or become enthusiastic about any subject and skill?"

Burton has dedicated himself to inspiring millions of children to read both through his beloved long-standing PBS children's series, Reading Rainbow, and more recently through the Reading Rainbow digital library, currently available on the iPad and Kindle Fire. Some 184,000 books are read each week through these platforms, which were launched in 2011.

"What we know is that reading is as important--if not more so--as it has ever been and our kids are falling behind,” said LeVar Burton. “But we also know that it is possible to use technology to foster a passion for reading that lasts a lifetime."

Burton will present his spotlight presentation at 4:30 p.m

From 2-2:30 p.m., Burton will join Shira Lee Katz, Senior Director of Education Content at Common Sense Media, and Dr. Kris Mitzner, Principal of Diane Winborn Elementary School in Katy, Texas in a 30-minute panel conversation on "Engaging Learners with Digital Content." The discussion will focus on the qualities of digital learning media that make it effective in the K-12 classroom. Press questions are welcome. Please contact Crista Sumanik at to reserve a space in the pressroom.

Throughout the conference from June 29 through July 1, Common Sense Media will conduct workshops and demonstrations of various digital educator resources that have received our highest rating for learning potential:
  • At booth #1526 on the convention floor, Common Sense Media will present the latest updates and features of Graphite, the trusted site to help educators source and use the best educational technology for K-12 classrooms. Developers of the industry's hottest educational technologies -- and winners of Common Sense Media ON for Learning Awards, including iCivics, Dreambox Learning, BrainPop, Khan Academy, MinecraftEdu, and more -- will demonstrate their popular learning products.
  • In room B311, Common Sense Media experts and certified educators will lead sessions focused on the best technology tools to enhance student learning.
  • At the Ed Tech Start-Up Pitch Fest, Common Sense Media will judge both the hotly contested preliminary rounds on Sunday, June 29, as well as the final round on Monday, June 30.
Please find the full schedule of Common Sense Media events at ISTE here: 

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is a leading independent nonprofit organization offering the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for everything kids want to watch, play, read, and learn. We provide comprehensive, free resources for schools and trustworthy information for parents to ensure kids learn how to be safe, smart, and responsible digital citizens who thrive in a world of media and technology. 

For more information, go to:

About LeVar Burton and RRKidz
Best known for his distinguished TV roles, most notably Kunta Kinte on “Roots,” Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Reading Rainbow,” LeVar Burton is widely recognized for his lifelong advocacy of children’s literacy. In 2011 he formed RRKidz with his business partner Mark Wolfe and launched the award-winning Reading Rainbow’s unlimited library of books and video field trips. They hold the global rights to the Reading Rainbow brand through a partnership with series creator, WNED/Buffalo.

Press Contacts:
Crista Sumanik
W: 415.553.6780

Alexis Vanni
W: 415-553-6728

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Movers, Shakers, and Makers at ISTE14

Are you attending ISTE this week? You may feel overwhelmed with the vast program and sessions from which to choose. You've already
experienced most of the "Top 10 Ways to..." sessions, so you If you are looking to dig a little deeper and be a part of the Maker Movement (or at least understand what it's all about), read on.

This post comes to you from Sylvia Martinez. Co-author of Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom.

From Sylvia:

This week, President Obama hosted the first White House Maker Faire, proclaiming a National Day of Making and encouraging young people to be designers, engineers, and inventors -- not just consumers. And he called for more programs and activities to mentor and empower a new generation of Makers.

You might expect that the Maker Movement in education will be a hot topic at ISTE this year - and you are right!

This year there is a big focus on makerspaces and making in schools - which I'm glad to be a part of. Last year it felt pretty lonely to be one of the only speakers talking about it. But this year, there are numerous events and sessions about making, maker education, design, 3D printing, robotics, microcontrollers, e-textiles, programming, and more.

I've created a Maker Playlist of some of the top Maker-related ISTE conference sessions and events. Hope to see you there -

Friday, June 27

Hack Education
Friday, June 27, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
GWCC B303/304

Mobile Mega Share
Friday, June 27, 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 28

Invent To Learn@ISTE 2014 workshop - robots, programming, electronic papercraft and sewing, 3D printing, and much more (plus lunch), lead by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.

Sunday, June 29

Technology transforms pedagogy: Combining the tools and the vision
Sunday, June 29, 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
GWCC B303/304

Student tech leaders to support digital transformation
Sunday, June 29, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 5

Genius hour 20% time: Best practices inspire creativity not chaos
Vicki Davis, Erin Klein, Karen Lirenman, Angela Maiers, Sylvia Martinez, Don Wettrick
Sunday, June 29, 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
GWCC Sidney Marcus Auditorium

Designing your makerspace
Sunday, June 29, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 9

Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center: Inner-City Baltimore Youth Makerspace
Sunday, June 29, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 41

The Maker Movement: Interactive electronics without programming
Sunday, June 29, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 2

Invent to Learn: Making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom (Gary Stager)
Sunday, June 29, 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

STEM in K-5: Beebots to WeDo!
Sunday, June 29, 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Monday, June 30

Build your world: Mobile makerspace at the Mobile Learning Playground (I'll be here - speaking towards the end)
Monday, June 30, 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
GWCC Building B, Level 3 (near Room B313)

School 2.0: Where are we headed
Monday, June 30, 10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.

Student engagement: Best practices for inquiry-driven, project-based strategies
Monday, June 30, 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Making sense of maker education
Monday, June 30, 1:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 38

STEAM (science-tinkering-aesthetics-engineering-math): Creating a maker culture
Monday, June 30, 1:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 9

Creating a makerspace: Makey Makey and Scratch
Monday, June 30, 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Design your school's R&D
Monday, June 30, 4:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Merging mobile, makers, and science education
Monday, June 30, 5:15 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Exploring earth and space science: Hands-on littleBits STEAM activities
Monday, June 30, 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
GWCC A311/312

Tuesday, July 1

Maker's Playground and agile learning environments
Tuesday, July 1, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
GWCC Building A, Level 3 (near Room A313)

Top 10 classroom tools of the maker movement (Sylvia Martinez)
Tuesday, July 1, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom 3/4

Enriching elementary geometry curriculum with 3D printing
Tuesday, July 1, 11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

ISTE Mobile Learning Network: Merging mobile with the maker movement
Tuesday, July 1, 11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom 1/2

Educational technology and makerspaces
Tuesday, July 1, 1:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.

Learn How to Use a 3D Printer - Right Now!
Tuesday, July 1, 1:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.

GWCC Tech Infrastructure Pavilion (booth 2448)

"The Maker Movement in schools now has a bible." - Larry Magid, Technology Columnist, Huffington Post, CBS News.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Flip, Blend, and Mix with New Free Office Plugin

I get many email requests to review products and, although I do read most of the emails, I rarely agree to do the review. Too many times, the product or service is simply "old wine in a new bottle."

But...when I received a recent email requesting that I review a new FREE service from Microsoft called, I was skeptical, but felt compelled to check it out. The sender wanted me to try a demo of this new service on a Surface Pro (on loan). I was also asked to speak with Shanen Boettcher, the general manager of Microsoft Startup Business Group (SBG). Shanen and his team work with Microsoft Research to take innovative ideas and turn them into solutions outside the work of Microsoft's mainstream product teams. Their education work includes this new tool,, to help teachers and students harness online content.

Essentially,, is a free, easy way to take your PowerPoint presentations and bring them to life as interactive online lessons. From recording audio or video of yourself giving a lecture, to directly marking up the presentation as you would at your whiteboard, to quizzing, to sharing, and creating. This solution allows you to take existing PowerPoint slides and insert quizzes, videos, apps, and other content from open source services like Khan Academy and CK-12, and screen capture, narrate, and markup the slides with or without video capture of you while you are presenting. You can then share it with anyone on the Mix Gallery site. Your new Mix can be viewed directly in any web browser.

Here is a Mix that includes a great overview.

So, within a few days of my response, I received the loaner tablet with the software preloaded. I immediately launched PowerPoint and started using Mix right away. Although there are tutorials and instructions on their support site, I didn't see a need for any of them. The process was very intuitive. Basically, if you can create a basic PPT slide, you can do this. It's easier than adding transitions and animations. Trust me.

I did try to load the plugin on my Surface RT, Mac, and iPad, and it would not work. You must have either Win 7 or Win 8 AND Office 2013 (or Office 365). Office 365 is supported but only if you download and install the Office suite. You can not use Mix to create new content using Office Web Apps. You can watch a mix on a wide array of devices. They support the latest version of all major browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari) on desktops, laptops and Windows tablets. The full interactive experience will also be available on Apple and Google Android tablets very soon. For now, they support mixes as videos on these devices. For Windows Phone, Apple® iPhone® and Android-based smartphones, mixes can be viewed as videos.
Click for example Mix

Today I had a chance to speak with Shanen and he shared some insights with me. In turn, I shared insights from my perspective of being a part of one of the largest school district in the U.S. Although we do have some great successes, we also struggle with 1:1 initiatives, device management, cloud storage, FERPA, COPPA, etc. So storage in the cloud is always a concern, as well as having enough devices (with Office 2013 installed) to support students creating Mixes. He said they were looking into supporting other versions of Office (2010), as well as other operating systems, and even perhaps the Web Apps.

I am really excited about this new add-in. I can see all kinds of great things happening, including high school students using it for their digital portfolios. You should try it, and tell me (in the comments) what you think.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"This Too" is Showing No Signs of Passing

Do you remember the days of teaching when we strived to teach everything in such a way that our students will run home and tell their parents about it, because they were so excited? When learning was meaningful and not structured around facts?

Well, readers of this blog may, but according to a recent post by David Warlick, half of all U.S. teachers have never worked in an education system where high-stakes testing didn't drive the bus. You should read the entire post but here is the piece that really resonated with me.

"For me, it was a full 25 years before No Child Left Behind  standards-based teaching and punitive high-stakes tests stained the “art of teaching.”  Things were quite different in terms of the autonomy that teachers exercised in determining what and how their children learned – and some mediocre teachers, admittedly, took advantage of the freedom.  However, most, whom I came in contact with, used their academic freedom as a seedbed to create dynamic and effective learning experiences for their students.  For years I have felt that this-too-will-pass, that the arrogant belief that we can know and teach everything our children will need to know to be prepared for their future simply makes no sense, and that we would come to our senses."
I have also said "this too shall pass."
Well, "this too" is showing no signs of passing.

Next year marks my 30th year in education. For most of my career, we had what is now a luxury to take what students should know and use what tools we were given, and build lessons that were long-term, engaging, and multi-dimensional.

30 years? Yeah, I'm old. Old enough to clearly remember many things that today's teachers will never know. I mean, who remembers Frank Schaffer ditto books? And using papier-mâché with your students to build solar systems. (In class - not to send home for homework. Same with science fair projects: in class - not homework.) I even created an entire unit around the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. The unit included every area of the curriculum, and lasted as long as the Olympics. It even included correspondences with the Olympic athletes via email (we had one dialup connection in the library and I used my AOL account with my students).

It makes me sad to think about how students are learning today. They are missing out on the joy of learning. They are being forced to watch for the end goal, rather than enjoying and making the best of the journey.

There are certainly examples of outstanding teachers who are able to fight their way through the muck to create innovative learning environments. But they are few and far between, and it is shameful that testing requirements, and the rapacious micro-oversight, forces them to expend every bit of energy just to do what we they know is right for students.

Will this too pass? I doubt it. And if it does, I fear what damage will have been done and can't imagine the magnanimous and colossal efforts that will be required to put the pieces back together.

This video makes an excellent point with an analogy between life and music.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Are You Still There?

I realize I have not written here in quite awhile, and I am working on that. (More about that later in a future post.) In the meanwhile, I've been reassessing how I am using this blog, and how my subscribers are using it as well.

Question #1:

Some of you are subscribed via Feedblitz. Feedblitz is a service I pay for on a yearly basis. The payment model is based on number of subscribers. So, I happen to notice that some of you are subscribed multiple times, with a variety of email addresses. If that is your preference, then don't do anything. I'm happy to have you (and all of your personas) as subscribers.

If however, you are not using all of your subscription, I wonder if you would go ahead and unsubscribe using the email you no longer want to receive these emails. 

On the other hand, this may be the first time you've heard of anyone receiving these posts via email, and your brain just said, "Hey, that's a great idea!" So, feel free to subscribe using the Feedblitz widget on the right-hand side of my blog. 

Bottom line: I'm happy to have, and pay, for every subscriber. If there are some that are not being used, then unsubscribing might just save me a few bucks each year.

Question #2:

As Google Reader is now defunct, I've sort of lost my way with following blogs. What reader, or method, do you use to keep up with your favorite blogs?