Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Online Portfolios at all levels

Many classes use portfolios to collect evidence of student learning. This can take a few different forms:
  • Evidence of successful completion of a task 
  • Journaling on a project, such as what they learned while going through a process 
  • Reflection on their learning 
  • Pictures or videos that demonstrate understanding or implementation 
When creating a portfolio, teachers may indicate what evidence needs to go in the folder. However, it is also useful to have students choose the best elements to represent their learning. In order to best represent all concepts, a teacher may still guide the necessary components.

Student portfolios can be compiled online in a number of ways. The easiest way in a Google school is with a Google folder. For those of you using Hapara, it seems even easier when you use the Hapara folder created for each student, but just remember that these will be archived at the end of the year! Anyway, here are some alternate ways (not Google Drive) at each level to compile an online student portfolio:

As the state rolls out the Future Ready Index, there will continue to be more and more discussion about evidence of student learning.  This will allow us to focus on deeper levels of learning and what we know to be meaningful.  I hope these tools provide you with a starting point to try a new tool related to this topic.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Flexible Spaces

A new year brings new buzzwords.  Lately, we've heard a lot about "flexible learning/instructional strategies" and "flexible spaces."  Buzzwords are easy to toss around, but what do they actually mean?  Let's focus on the latter, "flexible spaces."

Applying the highlighted definition to spaces, we can presume that flexible spaces are easily modified to respond to various scenarios.

Flexible spaces help us create student-centered environments.  When we use a variety of techniques in our instruction, we are asking our students to use a variety of techniques in their learning.  That variety must be supported.  That is where flexible spaces come in to play.

Flexible spaces are popular for a reason.  They are set up with movement in mind, and are easily changed to suit the needs of your students and your instruction.

Around Warrior Run, you can see flexible spaces at all levels:

  • Libraries at all three schools
  • Middle school Makerspace
  • High school classrooms, notably 215D

Most recently, at the high school, we have redesigned rooms 105A and 105B to become The Commons.  Currently, it is available for classes, activities, department and faculty meetings, presentations, and more*.  Eventually, it will be a true flexible space with a specific criteria for student use.  It is in its early stages (more renovation needs to be completed), but it is able to be used now!  It is exciting to see a new student-centered space come to fruition at Warrior Run.

* If you'd like to use The Commons, please use the reservation calendar.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


The best type of educational technology is robust, flexible and FREE. Those terms are not normally used together. Fortunately, it appears like Everfi might fit this mold. Since they are funded by outside resources, they are free to us!

Everfi has a database of educational and interactive resources to teach concepts from financial literacy to college and career readiness to STEM. Each one has a grade span that it works best for, so it’s definitely worth considering.

One of the weaknesses of Everfi right now is that they do not have single sign-on. That’s a big deal to me because when a website has that, we know Google is not sharing the child’s name with them, but instead sharing a “code” with which to recognize them. Being a little concerned about CIPA and COPPA compliance, I decided to check into it more. It turns out that many schools in our area are already using this for some of their courses, such as financial literacy in the high school.

Students would have to go to and make an account, so this should really ONLY be used with students 13 or over UNLESS you are going to get permission from their parents to create an account for them. Please also note that Warrior Run student accounts cannot receive outside emails. A teacher can add students from the teacher dashboard, but the same rules would apply for privacy compliance.

Once a student has successfully completed one of the courses, you can print a certificate for them.

Here is an example video overview for the “Ignition” course on Digital Literacy and Responsibility.

Everfi may be free, robust and flexible, but there will be an initial setup for the teacher, and it’s not ideal for every grade level. If you teach one of the topics listed in their K-12 resources and are looking for something that students can work through independently that is also engaging, I recommend you give it a try.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

eLibrary Guided Research Topics

As patrons of the Warrior Run Libraries, everyone has access to a wonderful database called eLibrary (login info below*). eLibrary has always been an excellent source for research at all level, but sometimes it was a bit tedious to use. In December, the company rolled out a bunch of updates that make eLibrary both easier to use and nice to look at.

Of these updates, I am most excited about Guided Research Topics.

Previously, students have been overwhelmed by the many options and results offered by eLibrary. They knew the results were credible, but had a hard time discerning relevance. Guided Research Topics allow students to begin their research with small collections of resources that are guaranteed to be both credible AND relevant.

Of course, users can explore eLibrary as they see fit.  But when students begin their research and just aren't sure where to start, THIS is the answer.

Other updates include:
  • Linking to Google account
    • Log in more easily
    • Save articles directly to Drive
    • Share directly to Google Classroom
  • Visual and intuitive navigation
  • More efficient search engine
  • Simplified icons
  • Citations (including MLA 8)

*When prompted, use the following login:
Username: wrsd
Password: student

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year, New Opportunities

Happy 2018!

First, some housekeeping.  I used this online random selection tool to choose the winner for our Hour of Code.  So congratulations to Andrea Heller on being the winner of the $10 Dunkin gift card!  Next year, I'd love to see some more of you try this out, especially as our children get better and better at coding from all the fun gadgets on the market.  Also, try the random picker sites for randomly selecting volunteers in your classes.

It's that time of year when everyone is looking back on 2017 and looking forward to what's in store for 2018.  So let's do just that. 

First, I'd love to share a list (I love lists) from one of my favorite resources for educators: Common Sense Media's Best EdTech of 2017.  It's organized by subject matter and grade level and free/paid/platform, etc, so it's great for finding a new tool. 

Second, let's discuss and reflect on portfolios for students.  We could write a book on the definition and purpose of portfolios, but I want to talk specifically about portfolios for students as they move through K-12.  First let me pose some questions to you:

  • If you were (or are) implementing portfolios in your class and you wanted them to continue until graduation, what tool would you use?
  • What would this portfolio contain?
  • How would you connect what students are learning in your class to other subject areas?
  • Who would select the best elements to include in the portfolio?
As you reflect on these ideas, you may already have assignments or methods in mind.  If you work at the secondary level, your students may already be able to share some ways in which to make it work or in which they see the cross-curricular nature of their education (my words, not theirs).  As students enter high school and they start to choose career pathways, how would the elements of their portfolio reflect the skills and knowledge base of the pathway they chose?

I want to delve more into this topic for future posts, but I would love to hear and learn more from anyone in the district who is already using portfolios of any kind!  I would also love to discuss this topic if you have experiences from children in other districts.  My son is in 2nd grade and he brings home a million papers!  I feel like I'm creating a portfolio when I choose what to keep.  Does anyone else have this experience?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keep Learners on Task with Focused Browsing

Hapara has recently rolled out great updates designed to “refocus learners on the task at hand.”  Their updated include Open Tabs, Focused Browsing, Scheduled Browsing, and Viewing Browsing in Progress.
This blog post will focus on Focused Browsing.  See what I did there?
Focused browsing allows teachers to focus their students on a specific site for a specific amount of time.  While focused browsing is active, students cannot open new tabs, go to a different tab, or browse new/other URLs.  This helps them stay on task without getting distracted.
This is ideal for online assessments.  If you give quizzes, tests, or other timed exercises online, now you can eliminate the worry of cheating and plagiarism simply with focused browsing.  If you’ve thought about online assessments but weren’t sure how to overcome the worry, focused browsing is the way to go.
There are several options for customization in focused browsing:
  • Allow students to go anywhere within a particular site or limit them to only select pages
  • Time limits up to 3 hours
  • What happens at the end of the session, whether you close the pages or keep them open

If you're intrigued by focused browsing, give it a try in class! And then click here to see the rest of Hapara’s new updates.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WR's Hour of Code

This week is National Computer Science Week.  As part of this, hosts the Hour of Code, where they encourage everyone to learn a little bit of code.

So, with that in mind, I thought we could celebrate #throwbackthursday a little early and throw all the way back to 1999, when I took a high school coding class at Bishop Neumann High School.  In the class, we learned msdos and html (those were simpler times).  Html has evolved and become more complex, with xhtml and html5...blah blah blah.

Anyway, basic HTML is not that complicated.  You just need to start the code by using the <> blocks and then tell it to end by using </> blocks.  For example, <html> begins the block and </html> ends the block.

Then there are basic other commands, such as:
<head> and </head> create a header
<body> and </body> (Everything you want to appear on the page must be between these blocks.)
<br> which inserts a line break
<p> which inserts a paragraph (or two line) break
<a href=””> and </a>which inserts a link
<center> and </center> which places the text in the center
<hr> puts a horizontal line across the page
<body bgcolor=””> changes the background color of the page
<body text=””> changes the text color of the page

You can also use hex values to determine a color, which is identifying colors by a combination of six digits.  Here are some hex values.

There are many other commands and you can find some of them here.

So for example, if I wanted something to look like this:

Welcome to Warrior Run Hour of Code!

Are you learning about the basics of html today?
Visit the blog for more information.

The code would look like this.

You can use a site like practiceboard to write code and check the output of the code.
I also recommend the following sites to learn more about coding in general, including HTML.

So here’s the fun part.  Below is a small amount of text and I want you to use the code and the practiceboard website to type out the code.  If you email me the code and it is correct, you will be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.  Everyone knows that teachers run on Dunkin.  :)

Try this:

I learned how to code with HTML!

Please enter me into the drawing for the Dunkin’ gift card.  Thanks!


That’s it!  The due date is December 15, 2017.  Email me the link to your practiceboard. Good luck!