• Controlled Chaos

    Posted by Jamie Smith on 12/9/2016

    Photo Credit: Mrs. Denise Krebs, www.photovis.com

    Teaching requires a great deal of organization and the ability to manage a classroom and all of the people in it. Often times, teachers end up developing a strong “need to control” trait. Indeed, I too once expected my students to sit quietly and work. While this is often necessary when reading and writing, I believe teachers reap great rewards by adopting collaborative practices when integrating technology and digital resources into their classrooms. These collaborative practices can cause a type of controlled chaos to occur.

    As teachers introduce new technology or digital resources to their classrooms, they may find a new phenomenon occurs where students become active and assist each other with figuring out how the new resource works.

    When I was first teaching in an environment like this, I was disturbed by the noise because I had the impression that my students’ were off task. But when I stepped back and listened to their conversations, I realized they were supporting each other. I often found they taught me new things about our devices and resources in the process. Upon practice and reflection I learned that going slower in the beginning and allowing students to take an active role in supporting the classroom community helped everyone in the room build capacity for long term success.

    Integrating technology and digital resources may be scary, and the possibilities are unknown, but taking the risk to try something new can deliver huge dividends in the classroom and what could be more gratifying for a teacher than students reaping great rewards from their learning?

    For more information, ideas, and resources, please see the ISTE Standards for Teachers.

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  • Technology Integration in the Classroom

    Posted by Jamie Smith on 2/22/2016

    Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

    As I work throughout my school sites advocating for the use of technology and supporting teachers and students who are using technology tools like iPads and Chromebooks in their classes, I am often faced with questions like “Do you have some way for me to see my students screens so that I know what they’re doing?” or “How is using technology better than what I have always done?” or simply “What can I do with this tool?”


    The answer to these types of questions is simple, nothing replaces good teaching ¹. An effective teacher does not really need a tool to view their students’ screens, because an effective teacher is going to assign work as always, and hold students accountable for getting their work done, as always. Students’ being distracted by something is not a new problem in the classroom either, although technology is something that excites many students and therefore, heightens the distraction factor, at least in the beginning. I believe the key is engagement.


    Understanding how to successfully manage technology integration is essential to building engagement. Technology is a supportive tool that allows teachers and students access to explore, research, analyze, synthesize and ultimately to create content, leading to a whole host of higher order thinking skills. Teachers organizing creative, engaging, and fun activities are going to experience a greater rate of participation from students. When students are participating and are empowered to actively engage in their learning, they will grow academically. Our goal is to prepare students for life and jobs of the future; we have no idea what those jobs will be, but life going forward will require 21st-century skills in order for our students to be successful adults. So when as a teacher, you receive access to classroom devices, use them! If you need support, contact your Instructional Technology Coach, we would be happy to work with you to generate ideas, and to support you as you get started in class.


    1. "Nothing can replace a good teacher - The Washington Post." 2015. 22 Feb. 2016


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  • SummerTech15 is Coming!

    Posted by Mike Dawson on 5/22/2015
    SummerTech15 is here! Click here to visit the official website! 
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  • Ready for Chrome Books?

    Posted by Mike Dawson on 4/14/2015
    Are you ready for Chrome books? Some time during this school year, Chrome books may be arriving at your door. Have you considered what you will be doing with them?
    Some information that you might need to help you decide...will your site divide them up or keep them in class sets? Have you been trained on how to use them? have you been trained on how to use them with your students?
    Now that you have that figured out, have you given thought to how your classroom instruction and culture will change because of the chrome book? If you are going to have something close to one-to-one (one Chrome book to one student) in your class, have you considered using a Learning Management System like Google Classroom or Edmodo to help you and your students organize and keep track of assignments and calendars? How will the type of assignments change because of the Chrome book?
    Even if you only have twelve chrome books, there are many things that you can do that can change the way you teach and the way your students learn.
    Chrome books also work very well in accomplishing the goals of Common Core.  Many of the standards at all grade levels require technology to some degree.
    Now is the time to start asking these questions, find this information, and look at new ways to teach, whether you have Chrome books  or not, and your M.U.S.D. Instructional Coaches can help you address these questions and more. Contact your coach for more information.
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  • Home-School Communication

    Posted by Mike Dawson on 4/14/2015

    What is the educational role of Home-School communication? As an educator, it is my job to enlist and maintain the participation of parents in the education of their children and to do that there are many possible tools.

    In my opinion, nothing beats a good face-to-face conversation with parents, where body language can be read and there are fewer chances for miscommunication. Telephone and email are also good methods to communicate on a personal level with parents.

    If your intent is to communicate general information about your class with parents, then there are several ways to do that using "modern" media tools.

    1. Every teacher in Madera Unified has a web presence as part of their school's SchoolWires web page. Try using that to post import things like course syllabi, field trip info, due dates, even assignments can be posted.

    2. LMS. Madera Unified has, as part of its commitment to Google, access to Google Classroom, a basic learning management system (LMS) that can be used to communicate with parents just as it is used with students. After you set up your classes, set up a separate class for the parents and send the class code home with students.

    3. Social Media - Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, can all be tools to communicate with parents. 

    When using ANY form of media with public access, please be mindful of district, state and federal rules and policies safeguarding the identities of children. 

    If you have questions about any of these tools, please contact your site Technology Coach. If you are not sure who your Technology Coach is, check with your site Admin Assistant.

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  • Digital Literacy

    Posted by Jamie Smith on 3/2/2015


    Digital Literacy

    According to Google, Digital Literacy is defined as “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.” This means that a digitally literate person knows how to search for credible resources online, they know how to use and cite the information they find, they are able to share appropriately, and they are conscientious and deliberate creators of content.

    This topic is increasingly important with the advent of the Common Core standards because the demand for teachers to integrate technology into their core curriculum is more pressing than ever. Districts are adopting technology initiatives on a large scale and teachers are developing new techniques and skills to implement these initiatives. More teachers delivering content online means more students are becoming active online. I would suggest that digital literacy needs to encompass more than just the definition above; digital literacy needs to include the social behaviors that students and teachers need to embrace to protect their online identities, reputations, and to maintain a safe, healthy, and productive profile online.

    It is my professional belief that digital literacy and digital citizenship should be integrated early and often in our core curriculum throughout each school year and at every grade level. Common Sense Media has a wealth of information and resources, from the Digital Passport program for 3rd through 5th grades, to their new Digital Bytes program for teens. Common Sense also offers Graphite for Educators. Graphite is a site featuring technology enriched lesson flows (lesson plans) and they feature several on Digital Citizenship and Literacy.

    Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship are simply life skills that every individual needs in the 21st century. Introducing and reinforcing these skills in school as well as at home simply makes sense for kids.

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  • Transformational Technology

    Posted by Rebecca Malmo on 2/20/2015

    What makes educational technology transformative? Innovation. Planning, time, effort, dedication, creativity and fearless teaching. Transformation occurs when students are encouraged to explore beyond the instructional environment, to think critically about what they discover, and collaborate with their peers and others. It occurs when they create new content, problem-solve real world issues, add to the body of knowledge and publish their discoveries. The depth of what our students can learn is transformed by the use of technology.

    Transformation occurs when technology is used to extend learning beyond today’s classroom. Transformation occurs when technology is used as a source of information; as  a canvas for electronic design; as a tool for calculation and analysis; as a presentation medium. It provides all these attributes in an engaging environment. That makes it transformative.

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  • Tools to Enhance and Support Technology Integration in the Classroom

    Posted by Jamie Smith on 11/18/2014
    Courtesy of Creative Commons  

    With the adoption of the Common Core Standards that have rigorous technology embedded throughout at every grade level, districts and teachers across the country are working diligently to integrate technology into their curriculum. This is an exciting time to be an educator because of the great wealth of free resources available online. However, it can also be an overwhelming task to sort through the many apps and online resources that are available to teachers, in many ways it’s like drinking from a fire hose. So how do teachers know what’s good and what’s not so good without trying it? Where can teachers get solid ideas for integrating technology into their content? As a teacher, I have been down this road and I found that quantity is not necessarily the answer; a few high quality resources can be all that it takes to transform one’s teaching. I have provided a description and a link to a few of my favorite student and teacher tools.

    Prezi - Publishing and Collaboration

    Prezi is cloud based presentation software. Prezi operates like a large canvas and up to ten users can sign in and co-edit at once. Users can embed images, videos, and text to and then set a navigation path from one object to the next. The result is a thrill ride in story telling and presentation! Let your students bring their content to life using Prezi!


    Timetoast - Publishing of Chronological Information

    Time Toast is a great site for students and teachers to create interactive timelines. Students can create timelines for historical figures or significant events, or teachers can find existing timelines to support lessons.


    WordItOut - Publishing and Creativity

    WordItOut allows users to make word clouds, I particularly like that students can revise and edit the look of their word clouds. Word clouds are fun a publishing option for a variety of subjects. Word clouds are handy as profile pictures, ways to collect and display vocabulary, or users can use a tilde (~) to connect phrases, for example a word cloud of metaphors found in a piece of literature can be a fun and creative project for students to create. Also, repeating a word or term affects the size of the word in the cloud, so more important words can be made to display more prominently. Word clouds can be shared or turned in via a link from the WordItOut gallery or students can take a screenshot.


    Thatquiz - Quiz Generator

    Thatquiz.org makes it easy to quiz students on a variety of topics. Teachers can create custom quizzes or use existing content and set proficiency levels for students. Students can save their progress and continue on another day and see their score at the end of an exam. I used Thatquiz as a daily warm up of common SAT vocabulary, my students were able to start their quiz, save their progress and continue the next day. Thatquiz also features in-depth content on geography, mathematics, foreign languages and English vocabulary. Teachers can also search for shared quizzes created by other teachers.


    ProCon.Org - Research and Resources

    ProCon.Org is a site devoted to evaluating multiple perspectives of many of today's controversial topics. This is an excellent source when teaching writing and persuasive argument.


    American Rhetoric - Research and Resources

    AmericanRhetoric.Com is an online catalog of the most famous American speeches delivered by historically significant citizens over the history of the United States.


    Lit2Go - Literature Online

    Lit2Go is a collection of k-12 classic literature that includes web format, audio files and pdf files. Users can search the collection by reading levels, genre and collections.


    ReadWriteThink - Student Interactives and Teacher Resources

    Sponsored by the International Reading Association and NCTE, ReadWriteThink provides a wealth of resources for educators at every grade level. The site offers student interactives, lesson plans based on specific literature. ReadWriteThink features rich search and filtering tools to help teachers find just the right activities for their units of study.


    Shmoop - Student Interactives and Teacher Resources

    Shmoop is study guide central! Shmoop provides a new way for students to build background knowledge on nearly any topic by having them search Shmoop for some key details. Shmoop is edgy, fun and provides pop culture connections to make the details more relevant to young scholars. Shmoop offers study guides and support on literature, history, sciences, and mathematics. Additionally, for a fee, teachers or students can access even more content.

    Graphite - Teacher Resources

    Graphite offers reviews on apps and online classroom resources. Reviews are written by classroom teachers who have used the tools. Graphite also features Lesson flows, called App Flows, to illustrate how certain tools can be used in a blended classroom teaching environment.


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  • The SAMR Model to Evaluate Teaching with Technology Effectiveness

    Posted by Jamie Smith on 10/29/2014

     Created by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura

    The Common Core state standards are here and the content standards are rich with technology requirements. Students will be using word processors, presentation software, they will be researching information online and evaluating the validity of digital resources. Students will have to navigate browsers and screens and a multitude of software. Teachers are challenged to integrate these technologies into their core curriculum in order to meet the needs of the standards. So how can a teacher evaluate whether or not their technology integration is effective?

    The SAMR model is a description of the typical phases teachers progress through as they begin to integrate technology into their curriculum. The steps refer to Substitution, Modification, Augmentation, and Redefinition. The SAMR model was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.

    The phases of the model are fairly straightforward in terms of tech integration. Teachers generally look for new technology related ways to do what they have been doing. For instance learning new vocabulary is a fundamental activity and a part of most content areas. When introducing new vocabulary, teachers may have students look up the definitions online in order to integrate technology, this is an example of Substitution because the teacher is substituting an online dictionary versus a physical dictionary. As the teacher and students become more comfortable, they may adapt this process and create online collaborative discussions using the vocabulary or by creating an illustration to make the new vocabulary more meaningful to learners, this is an example of Augmentation. Over time, the teacher may become more creative and find new resources or methods to support students learning activities by having students create visuals for their new vocabulary, this is the Modification phase and represents a distinct shift in the transformation of the educational activities to become very student driven through creation of content by the student. The final phase is Redefinition, where the former processes are completely replaced by new activities that are student centered and driven by students’ creating products to demonstrate their knowledge of subject matter. In the Modification and Redefinition phases, students are using technology for the “...creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” (Puentedura, 2009).

    The bottom line is that teaching well with technology will lead to transformational teaching and learning. To learn more about the SAMR model, click HERE.

    Works Cited

    "Introduction to the SAMR Model." Introduction to the SAMR Model Video. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/introduction-to-the-samr-model>.

    "Ruben R. Puentedura's Weblog." Ruben R. Puentedura's Weblog. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/>.

    "SAMR." Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html>.

    "SAMR Model - Technology Is Learning." SAMR Model - Technology Is Learning. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. <https://sites.google.com/a/msad60.org/technology-is-learning/samr-model>.
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  • Twitter in Education

    Posted by Jamie Smith on 10/1/2014

    Courtesy of Creative Commons  

    Twitter is a social media service that allows users to share thoughts, resources, images, videos and links via Twitter’s service. Users can follow another Twitter user to subscribe to their Tweets. A Tweet is limited to 140 characters, so posts are concise. When receiving Tweets, users can retweet a Tweet they receive, favorite a Tweet, quote Tweets to resend them with a message or they can privately direct message other users. Users also have the right to block followers. Users can view account profiles without following a user and following does not have to be mutual, like Facebook friending is.

    Twitter is quickly becoming an easy access point to professional development for educators. Educators use Twitter to connect, share resources, and chat about education. According to an article on Edsurge, Twitter executives report that Twitter users generate ½ a billion Tweets per day and 4.2 million of those come from educators using Twitter to connect with each other and share resources (Stevens).

    When first joining Twitter, it can be difficult to determine who to follow. However, Twitter makes it easy to search for relevant content. At the top of the Twitter homepage, there is a search bar. When I searched for education, Twitter gave me a choice between a list of their top 20 education accounts or all others. This helped me find relevant users to follow, for example @edutopia and @googleforedu are awesome and relevant resources.  

    I am a moderate Twitter user. I am not a huge Tweeter, but I am a big Retweeter. Retweeting helps me save resources and ideas for future reference. Hashtags are a tool that are used to find chats or to relate to other Twitter users and their followers. For example, it is trendy to post old photos on Throwback Thursday #TBT. Hashtags also facilitate chatting on Twitter. As long as a hashtag is listed in the search bar of an iPhone, every Tweet sent will reflect the hashtag, creating a feed or a conversation. This is how many education chats are facilitated each day.

    Chats are a great way to connect with educators all over the world and share ideas, collaborate and connect. I have recently been engaging in an educational chat called #teacherfriends. This group chats online every Tuesday at 6:00 pm. I wasn’t invited, I just noticed that I enjoyed reading tweets that were being generated by this group, and so I started responding. Next thing I knew, we were sharing information, ideas, and resources, so I joined them again the following week. It was exciting, I don’t know where these people are, they’re from all over the world really. I found it interesting to engage and read their ideas and they enjoyed my feedback as well, judging by the favorites, followers and retweets I received.

    Users can create an account and follow others before delving into active Tweeting and Retweeting. So don’t be afraid to get on Twitter and explore and connect!

    Works Cited

    "Twitter Exec Reports That Educators Dominate the Twitter Sphere (EdSurge News)." EdSurge. Web. 17 Oct. 2014. <https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-04-30-twitter-exec-reports-that-educators-dominate-the-twitter-sphere>.

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Last Modified on December 9, 2016