An Adaptive Tech PD “Miracle”

It warms my heart and brings me joy to see that glowing joy on a Special Education teachers’ face exclaiming, “We can DO that?”, “I didn’t know that was even A THING”,  “I never even THOUGHT of it”, “NO WAY!!!”… and the unforgettable, “This is like a miracle!”

This new phenomena is spurred by some mandatory PD that all of our teachers in grades 3-5 needed to attend this month.  I was teaching them the wonders of Microsoft’s OneNote Class Notebook.  That in itself was an extraordinary mind-blowing tool for teachers who JUST entered the world of teaching in a 1:1 environment.  For now, I’m thrilled to report on an unexpected byproduct of those PD sessions.

The Special Education teachers (and many Basic Skills and even general education teachers) were blown away by the Learning Tools that are embedded in Microsoft’s OneNote and Class Notebook.  In the Learning Tools, there is a remarkable ribbon tool called “Immersive Reader”.  I am both a former Special Ed teacher and a crazy-avid EdTech junkie, so I thought it was maybe just me who was awestruck by the way these tools make text accessible to all students.  The text-to-speech alone can bring tears to my eyes when I see it being used independently by a struggling reader.  The other options – font size, spacing, and color readability options can also be set by the learner to meet his/her own learning needs.  I ADORE that students may choose to speed up the reading voice or slow it down if processing is difficult!  I marvel when a student who has difficulty decoding can turn on the syllabication option and just read syllable-by-syllable.  Most of all – and I exclaim this with joyous fervor in my PD sessions – this is not something that a teacher has to “push out” to students or that draws any attention to that student!  The students who need it can just “turn it on” themselves – determining for themselves when they need those accommodations – and they don’t look any different than anyone else in the class!  Students can go to the same OneNote page as everyone else, and then discreetly slip in a pair of earbuds, click on the Learning Tools tab, and make the learning accessible without ever leaving the page (or the group, or the classroom!)

I also showed our teachers that their students will also soon have the Dictation feature available (speech to text) as soon as our district upgrades us to Windows 10.  I think a few of the teachers may or may not have fallen out of their chairs.  I know that I heard audible gasps.  One teacher threw her hand over her mouth and mumbled, “Oh, all those years we wasted money and time on that OTHER speech to text program, and now all of our kids will have it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT in their own OneNote notebooks and not having to go out to another program.”  Another teacher exclaimed, “This is like a miracle!”  I LOVE that these teachers get as emotional about this as I do.  That’s exactly how I feel!

Speaking of miracle, this is where something pretty magical began to happen!  Special Ed teachers – and some other speciality teachers, and Child Study Team members – started asking for more sessions just for them that dealt specifically with Adaptive Technology!   They wanted more time with the Learning Tools and to explore samples and brainstorm ways that these could be used.  Nothing – NOTHING – warms the cockles of my heart like teachers who are craving personalized PD that will help them help their students…so I created this to start:

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This graphic was made with Buncee – which is an AWESOME presentation site/app that also has many features that are exceptional for exceptional learners!  

These teachers are especially fascinated with Microsoft’s Audio Recorder, which is a standard part of ALL OneNote notebooks and Class Notebooks…sitting right there in the middle of the Insert Ribbon!  I showed them about 10 ways just that one little microphone tool could be used by both teachers AND students to make learning accessible, productive, and fun!  They played and came up with much better ideas than I had.  We researched and Googled and Pinterest-ed even more practical ideas…and the time flew!

We started with 1/2 day PD, and I’m thrilled to say that it wasn’t enough.  I never even got to demo all the the items on my very short list above – and I had about a dozen others on backup reserve in case we had more time!  As the teachers learned and shared and brainstormed, it gave ME even more ideas about things I want to show them…to teach them…to learn with them!   Going forward, those teachers have inspired a much longer list – I’ve begun compiling a list of apps, websites (like Buncee…see photo caption above), and simple general computer user features that I’ll be offering and sharing at all my schools…and beyond.  I have a bunch of creative “PD Delivery Options” – newsletters, online resources, screencasts, virtual meetings with screensharing, Tech Playdates, Morning Munchies & Lunch Bunch mini-sessions, etc. – so that all of my in-district teachers have diverse options for accessibility, too!

We are all SO very lucky to be at such a great and powerful time in regard to educational technology.  Technology isn’t an answer or a cure-all, and it needs to be planned well and done right, but OH, the possibilities!  Our teachers are lucky – there is so much that is FREE to us these days, and there are so many helpful tools embedded right in the sites and apps we use every day.  Our students are lucky – to be learning how to learn with technology that assists them when they need it.  As for me, I’m quite sure that I am the luckiest of all – to have Special Education teachers with real heart and sincere ambition, who crave and ask for professional development for adaptive technologies to make life the best it can be for their exceptional learners!


As always, I really love to hear your thoughts.  I need YOUR help to grow my list with great ideas to share with teachers!  What simple adaptive technology tools to you use and love?  What are some of your favorite general computer use tricks (my teachers even loved just learning to zoom in on the screen and how to increase/decrease brightness…those little things matter)?  What do you wish you knew about Adaptive Technology?  How do you get/find PD that works for you?  And my favorite question of all is…what’s your coolest AT tip or trick?

Reach out to me at @kerszi on Twitter, drop a note right here in my blog comments, or follow my Facebook page “Integration Innovation” and share your thoughts & ideas there!  I’m also kerszi on Voxer if you’d rather strike up a more private or conversational chat.  Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

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ClassroomScreen – EVERY Teacher’s Whiteboard Friend

I just know you’re going to love this – whether you teach Kindergarten or college, Spelling or Trigonometry…this site is really something that all educators can use daily!  It’s called ClassroomScreen, and it is precisely that.  It is a background screen that you can project and just sort of leave up all day.  It has a handy tool bank across the bottom of the screen full of things we all need, love, and use in our classrooms all the time.  ClassroomScreen just puts it all in one place – with one brilliantly simple interface – so that all the tools are accessible to you all day long!

After you open the ClassroomScreen website, begin customizing your screen.  You choose the background image from a very nice selection of photos:

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Just look at all of those tools across the bottom!  They’re very self-explanatory, so I’m just going to give you a quick little photo tour of what they’ll look like on your screen:

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Random name generator…click choose and it selects one name from your personalized class list!

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Calculator

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Simple drawing tool – you can choose small screen (like I did) or full-screen.

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Text box – you can copy/paste from another source, and use formatting tools including emojis

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Work Symbols lets you display your expectation for the sound levels in your classroom

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Traffic Light is another classroom management tool that you can display

timer

Timer

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Clock – displayed both ways, with date (click on date to reveal monthly calendar)  –  As you can see, I do random blog posting in the middle of the night!

There’s not much else to say except that I think a tool like this is remarkably handy.  There is a brief little YouTube video about ClassroomScreen that shows you how this works, but I’m pretty sure you already have it figured out.  Have fun!

 

I’ll be really curious to know if any of you end up using this during the school year, so drop me a comment to let me know what you think of it.  If you’re reading this on my blog, just enter comments here, or you can find this posted on my Facebook page (Integration Innovation) and I’m also on Twitter as @kerszi   – Thanks!

Bring on the Bitmoji!

Even if you haven’t started using them, I know you’ve seen them.  And if you HAVE started using them, you’re a little addicted, right?  Or is it just me?

Bitmojis are taking over the world…or at least it seems that way…and I’m glad because they make me really happy!  So what’s a Bitmoji?  It’s an avatar you design to (sort of) look like you.  And then you use it.  For everything!

I got started with Bitmoji on my iPhone, so I’ll start you the same way, although you can absolutely create and use Bitmoji from your computer in the Chrome browser.  There’s an extension for that, of course!   (I have it, I use it, and I totally recommend it!)

On your phone, just get the free Bitmoji app and sign up with an email. The prompts will walk you through how to create your Bitmoji, but it starts like this:


It’s personal preference, but I really like the Bitstrips style.  The next several prompts will take you through designing the physical appearance of your avatar.  It will ask you to choose your hair style, color, face shape, eyebrow style, eyebrow color, eyes, eyelashes, pupils, nose, mouth, cheeks, facial lines (yes, sadly yes), makeup, glasses, headwear, and finally body shape (mine is uhhh…slimmed down).  Ladies, it’s even going to let you choose your chest size!img_6103.png

Then, it’s fun fashion time!  Dress up your mini-you!


You get to dress up your avatar, but there are tons and tons of choices, and just know that you can change your avatar’s outfit as often as you’d like.

Hit the ✅ to finalize things, and you’re ready to use your Bitmoji and fun and creative ways!

I use mine all the time when texting my husband and son.  It’s become a bit of a fun game for us – we try to have entire conversations back-and-forth using only Bitmoji!

Wanna try?  OK, it might be a little hard to find your Bitmoji the first time you’re trying to text one, so let me show you how to access them.  First, click on the little globe icon at the lower left of your texting keyboard:


On the next screen, click on the little ABC icon at the lower left of your texting keyboard:

That brings up your “Search Bitmoji” screen, where you can type in keywords to look for the perfect action, expression, or emotion!img_6104.png

Posting your fun & crazy avatars works exactly the same way on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Notice my avatar has that same pink top on in most of the choices.  It will stay that way until I change her outfit!

Many educators are now using these in Booksnaps (click on the word for more info), an awesome idea created by Tara Martin for using Bitmoji in purposeful educational ways!

One last word of caution for elementary educators…there are a few Bitmoji that are not quite appropriate.  There aren’t many, but you know your kiddies will find them!

Since you stayed with me, learning and reading all the way until the end, I’ll leave you with this one very sincere final Bitmoji:

 

 

Please share your thoughts, feedback and ideas with me here at my Integration Innovation blog, on Twitter @kerszi, or on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation.  

Google’s Reverse Image Search

I learned about this in the strangest way.  Last summer, I was traveling through New England with my family.  It was nighttime, and we were driving over a bridge that was lit up and interesting – and I thought was pretty.  I snapped an iPhone photo from the passenger seat, and quickly posted it to Facebook with the caption, “Who knows where I am?”

My buddy Kevin came back almost instantly with the name and location of the bridge, and I was shocked!   I assumed he was familiar with the area.  He admitted that he just used Google Reverse Image Search.

TBH, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I made it a point to – well – Google it!  It’s another super-cool, super-easy way to WOW your friends and perhaps look like a genius from time to time.  I’ll bet you can come up with great ways to use it with students.  Tonight, I used it to satisfy my curiosity.  A few weeks ago, I had gone for a walk and noticed these beautiful little purple flowers.  I had taken a picture, and tonight I used Google Reverse Image Search to figure out what they were!

I started at the URL shown below, which is the site for Google Images.  Notice the little black camera in the search bar, and when I hovered over it, it says “Search By Image”.

Google Reverse 1

Next, I chose “Upload an image”.  (I had saved the photo to my laptop, so it was easy to upload.)Google Reverse 2

After I uploaded the file and clicked the little “search” magnifying glass, this is what I got:

google reverse 4 flower

“Oh, joy”, I thought – Google just let me know that this thing was – a flower?  Hmmmmphh….I almost thought I had wasted my time, until I scrolled down JUST a few inches and found this:

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Aaaah….thanks Google!  Now we’re talking.  Google found “visually similar images” for me, and that 4th one on the top is pretty much an exact match, so I clicked on it.

google reverse 6 periwinkle

How cool is that?  I narrowed it down until I surmised that my little flower was – a periwinkle!

There are lots of times my students and I wonder, “What IS that?” (and…umm…sometimes it might be better if we don’t know…you know how THAT is, right?)  Google Reverse Image Search gives us a fun and cool way to do a little investigating, a little research, a little debating, and a little deducing to find answers to some of our most burning questions!

In doing a little research for this post, I found these other helpful & related resources that you might enjoy:

  • CTRLQ.org – same as Google Reverse Image Search, seems to be a more direct link & possibly even easier.  You can use this right from your cell phone, too!
  • Reverse image search using your phone or tablet
    1. Use the Chrome app to do a search.
    2. Touch the image you want to search with to open a larger version of the image.
    3. Press and hold the image. In the box that appears, touch Search Google for this image.

     

     

I’m sure you can find even more ways to use this and great things to explore with it.  Please share.  I really love to learn from folks who stop by to read my posts, so let me know what you’re thinking!  I’d especially love to hear ways that you’ve used this in school.  Feel free to reply here on my blog, on Twitter @kerszi, or on my Facebook page – Integration Innovation!

 

 

Make Secret Messages with Snotes, and I’ll GPS you through it with Iorad!

This blog is working double-duty.  I thought about actually posting it twice, just with different titles, because you’re getting 2 tech tools for the price of 1 in this post!  You see, I know about Snotes and have used them often, so I just wanted to write a post in which I share this cool, fun, secret message maker with you.  That was the easy part.  Here’s what a Snote looks like, by the way:

snote

Have you seen them?  If you tilt your screen (phone, tablet…whatever you’re reading this on) so that it’s eye-level and parallel to the floor, you’ll be able to see words take shape.  Those words actually go in 4 directions, so if you continue to rotate that circle, a secret message will appear.  Snotes are just fun!  I’ve made these for everything from BreakoutEDU clues to sappy little love notes for my husband (yes, really!)  Oh, you don’t actually have to pick up and rotate your whole computer screen – the site lets you view them interactively.  As a matter-of-fact, that Snote above does some cool animation stuff, so click HERE to see that particular one in action – it’s pretty awesome!

Normally, I’d use the rest of my blog to show how to use Snotes – y’know, walk you through the steps.

That’s where iorad comes in.  That one is fairly new, and it’s been on my “to learn” list for about two months.  This seemed like a pretty great time to try it out.  Iorad is an EXTREMELY cool step-by-step automatic tutorial maker, and it’s free!  I installed the Chrome extension, and now whenever I want to demo a website, I can click on the icon and it starts recording my every click, scroll, and keystroke.

iorad extension

It then creates a set of GPS-like directions for every single thing that I do.  Iorad doesn’t record my voice or anything like video, it just tracks my inputs.  When I’m done, I just click that extension icon again to stop the “recording” and it gives me a fully editable set of directions!

I do take advantage of that ability to edit.  I find that iorad is very diligent in its tracking, and I don’t need every single scroll or input to actually be relevant to the directions I want to give.  I can type in my own words and customize the specifics.  When I’m done, I am provided with a link that I can send directly to my friends, staff, or blog readers!

Check out this view that the end user sees when they open my link:

iorad screenshot

I love that the end user can choose the “Try” version on the left, which is a more supported tutorial that has the user actually perform all of the steps by entering words, clicking where I clicked, and scrolling or hitting commands EXACTLY as I did when I made the tutorial.  The option on the right is more like the “driving directions” we all used to print out when we used MapQuest – it’s a list-type overview.

If you look really closely in the gray bar at the lower left of that image, you’ll see that it says “Kerszi made this in less than 8 minutes” – and that was with the command editing!

I’d really love it if you try the iorad tutorial I made for Snotes, so you can see exactly how it works on the user end, so here’s the link:  How To Create A Snote

I’m a Technology Integration Specialist.  My entire job involves teaching others to use educational technology tools, so iorad has just become another best friend!  I’m still going to use my good old screencasting tools, of course, but just as we try to differentiate our instructional strategies to reach all student learners, I’m thinking that iorad may be a preferred learning modality for many of the adults and teachers I teach, as well!  Good stuff!

I always LOVE to hear what you think of the tips, tools, & tidbits that I share here, and I also really love when you share ideas for how you would USE the tools.  Please share if you get a chance.  You can reach me on Twitter @kerszi, here at my WordPress blog , or I have a Facebook page called Integration Innovation.

Technology Integration Specialist: Revelations About My Vocation

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I had a unique and unexpected learning experience yesterday.  I attended Edcamp Exit 8a, the first edcamp ever hosted by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA).  It was their first edcamp, and it also happened to be the first NJPSA event that I had ever attended.  As an aspiring administrator, I had just joined the organization and literally received my welcome letter the day before this edcamp.

So there I was, in a room that was predominantly occupied by all kinds of administrators, from supervisors to principals to district-level admins.  There was also a smattering of technology experts, coaches, and teachers with various experience.  As a new member, I was ready to learn from all of these people.

Something unexpected happened.  The edcamp session board, which is always populated on the spot by volunteers from the audience, just wasn’t filling up.  As the minutes ticked on and I saw so many vacancies on the grid, I decided to put myself out there and volunteer to present.  As even more time passed and the need remained evident, I signed up for two more session presentations (there were only 3 sessions that day) and hoped for the best.  I’ve been to well over a dozen edcamps and figured I could facilitate a discussion – or three.  To be honest, at that point, I was a little disappointed because my goal had been to come as a learner and to tap into the experience and expertise of others.

It’s my first session that had enough of an impact on me to have me thinking and blogging about it today.  My session was titled, “What Is A Technology Integration Specialist?”  I am brand new to this role (officially), and I shared that with the group right off the bat.  I used an infographic that I had recently created as the basis for the session.  (Click HERE for the full infographic, but here’s a small snapshot:

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As you can see, the focus was on what tech integration specialists can DO.  I explained to the session participants that this was a newly-created position, and that my goal was to present this infographic to the staff members I would be serving in order to show all the ways I can provide services.  The response to the ideas was very much favorable, which was validating, to say the least.  I was honored that administrators found my delivery models and strategies worthy of replication in their own districts.

The best part came next, though.  They started to give me advice.  In true edcamp style, the session became a discussion, and the experts in the room began sharing experiences from their own districts.  They wanted to help me avoid pitfalls and be successful in my new vocation.  The learning I had come for – had craved – was happening as a result of my topic and the collegiality of educational professionals who care!

Here are a few of the extremely valuable revelations they shared:

  • Have critical discussions with different administrators first.  Often a tech integration specialist works under several different principals and supervisors.  My friend Rich Czyz (@RACzyz), a NJ principal and former instructional coach, said that it’s really important to see what each building leader expects and to get a feel for the culture of each school.  It’s also important to work with the principal/supervisor to establish how things will be presented to staff, what expectations will be for all involved, and how we can support each other to improve technology integration in the school.
    • One great example involves how to approach teachers who are reluctant to welcome any ‘coach’ into their room…will the principal have that discussion with those teachers and pave the way?  Does the supervisor prefer that no “push-in” coaching is done without an invitation by the teacher?
  • Be clear with staff about what Technology Integration Specialists DON’T do, too.  I loved this advice because I hadn’t considered it – and it’s important.  One supervisor in the room said that teachers in his school had taken advantage of the fact that another adult was entering the room.  Some teachers sat at their desks to grade papers; others actually left the room!  In his district, the administrators intervened and explained to the staff that when any ‘coach’ enters the room, it is to help that teacher via new learning, practice, or support.  He explained that it is critical to establish this expectation (with administrative support) to every teacher.  He also advised that I stay firm if/when teachers may try to take advantage, and to not make exceptions.  “Be rigidly consistent” was the exact advice.
  • Let teachers know that a Tech Integration Specialist is NOT any type of administrator.  This was great advice, too!  Many teachers get nervous or even resentful another adult coming into their classrooms.  One principal told me that it’s really important to get the word out from the get-go that I will never conduct an observation or be judgmental in any way.  Classroom teachers and tech integration specialists are compatible (lateral) positions.  She advised that I repeat that fact early and often.

As you can see, I left with new insights, new knowledge, and new ideas.  Perhaps I started as a presenter, but I finished as a learner.   I also ended up with some new contacts and remarkable connections.  I’d say that’s growth, and I know that’s exactly the kind of gift that edcamps make possible.

 

If you have any other advice for me –  or thoughts, comments, or opinions, I hope you’ll take the time to comment.  You can reach me here at my blog (kerszi.wordpress.com), on Twitter at @kerszi, or follow my Facebook page, which is called Integration Innovation.

 

A Technology Infuser

I came across this picture on Pinterest the other day, and it swirled around in my mind for a bit until now.


It’s a tea infuser.  You put whatever blend of tea leaves you enjoy in that infuser, and lower it into the hot water until your tea reaches the desired strength.

This is very much my philosophy as someone who helps teachers with technology.  The privilege is called by different names – a tech coach, tech trainer, tech integrationist, or.. I propose… a tech infuser.

First, tech infusers need to realize that for many reasons, they may be approaching hot water.  Teachers are sometimes reluctant to try new things, have a general insecurity about technology, or be uncomfortable having someone come into their rooms to offer help.  

The water itself also symbolizes ‘normal’ classroom instruction.  Guess what…sometimes water is exactly the ‘taste’ that’s needed in a classroom.  Sometimes it works just fine.  Sometimes, plain old water is really the perfect thing.  But not always.  Not for today’s learners.

Sometimes, a little more flavor is needed.  Sometimes, a lot more flavor is needed.  That’s where a tech infuser can do the most magic.  He or she can bring so many varieties of tea to show a teacher!  She can give tastings in the form of demo lessons.  He can observe a lesson, get a flavor for what’s going on, suggest a few ideas and – let them steep.  She can brainstorm with the teacher and prepare special blends – for any occasion!  

Here are five things that really great tech infusers do beautifully:

1) Really know their tea!  Know lots of teas, stay current on the latest teas & be creative with cool new ways to blend them.  

2) Go in gently.  Sometimes a subtle dip is just the right way to get those who’ve never drank the tea accustomed to the taste.  

3) Know balance.  Know when plain water will do the trick, when a gentle infusion is called for, and when a mighty strong infusion might just be a complete zinger!

4) Let things steep. Sometimes it takes awhile for a taste or a flavor to really develop.  Let it steep, but come back to check every once in awhile until it appears ready.


5) Have tea parties!  Let all of those who have developed a taste for infusion come together & celebrate!  Be sure to invite those reluctant ones to the party, too, to hear how delicious it can be to infuse a little variety into their TEA-ching!