Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Document Cameras in the Classroom

The technology department now has 3 document cameras for loan at each building.  A document camera can be used to scan, photograph, use live video, or zoom in for more detail.  The possibilities are only limited by your creativity.  Here are some examples of how this device can help you.

  1. Bypass making copies and display your work through the document camera onto your interactive whiteboard

2. Instead of having students huddle around a demonstration, show it underneath the document camera and it will display for a large audience on your interactive whiteboard.

3. Zoom in for fine details on an item, such as a coin or a mineral.
4. Host a Google Hangout or Skype call with a guest speaker/expert in the field.
5. Have students create a digital portfolio of work completed using the document camera as a photography station.
The technology department at each building can help you if you are interested in checking out one of these devices.  We have the Hovercam Ultra-8, shown below.  More information on this particular model can be found in this video or on their website.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Google NEXT '17 Highlights for Teachers

Google recently held a conference in San Francisco entitled Google NEXT ‘17.  While I wasn’t there, I have been reading a lot about news and announcements coming out of this event.  There are lots of exciting things going on, so I thought I would share some of them with you.  I am certain that they will impact your teaching in some way in the next five years.  

  1. Team Drives - Greg has already shared this one with you, which allows you to create a shared space in Google Drive for teams that work together often.  This could be departments, grade level teams, or classes.  Any file that is placed into this area can be manipulated by any member of the team, so plan accordingly.  For more information on team drives, watch this video.
  2. Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat - Google Hangouts is getting an overhaul.  If you use this to collaborate with colleagues, you may have noticed a number of changes over the past few years and none of them seemed efficient.  This is an attempt to compete with a company known as Slack to create a place for whole teams to collaborate in real time.  There are improved video features, too.  I just want the original extension back, but I’m ready to try it out!
  3. GMail Add-Ons - You may use some add-ons in other G Suite products, such as Doctopus or Flubaroo in Sheets.  Now you will be able to add functionality to your email with add-ons for GMail.  Right now they are just announcing that developers can start creating, so once something great comes out, we will let you know.
  4. Jamboard - Will the next interactive whiteboard be mobile?  All other classroom tech is.  This whiteboard comes on a stand and can be used by a whole team at once, to allow for seamless collaboration.  I would love to get my hands on one, but they price at $4,999.00!

I’m beginning to feel like every blog post I make has a list.  I hope you appreciate lists, cause I’m definite a list creator.  Check these things out because they will definitely impact your working in the future!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fight Fake News

The term "fake news" has been flung about a lot lately.  What is it?  How do we fight it?  How do we teach our students to wade through it?

Fake news is just what the term implies - "news" that is untrue.  As librarians, we exist to help other find accurate information.  Because this is our truest purpose, Marcus Banks laments that "the recent explosion in unverified unsourced, and sometimes completely untrue news has been discouraging."  And so librarians can help are helping their learning communities fight fake news.

Where does fake news even come from?  As Banks explains, "the majority of US adults are getting their news from in real time from their social media feeds.  These are often uncurated spaces in which falsehoods thrive."  News that is intentionally 100% fake is less common, but still a real problem.  Banks says "the news-savvy consumer is able to distinguish fact from opinion," but "growing evidence suggests these skills are becoming rarer."  Simply put, it is easier and faster to Google answers and share Facebook posts that it is to look for the facts.  

So how to we encourage our students to do the latter?

This viral infographic shows popular news sources and where they fall on the spectrum of bias, depth, and reliability.  Simply posting this in your classrooms would give students a nudge to choose better sources for their inquiries.

TedED published an interactive video lesson about how false news can spread.  The 3:42 minute video explains circular reporting with accompanying quiz and discussion questions.  Using this exercise in class would help students at all levels understood the fake news phenomenon.

Here are some more resources:

Information literacy is as important as ever, perhaps even more so.  As we fight fake news in our daily lives, information literacy becomes a vital skill for all 21st century learner.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Using Discussion Boards Effectively

With the use of new learning strategies that combine online and face-to-face communication, discussion board posts have become more common in the classroom.  The high school teachers have come to use resources like Google Classroom as an essential part of their routine.  With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to share some pros and cons and activity ideas.  Please feel free to respond with tips or tricks that you have found to be effective in your classroom.

Discussion boards can serve a lot of purposes in any content area.  Here are some of the general benefits:
  • Builds a classroom community
  • Allows time for reflection before responding to a prompt
  • Allows students to reflect on each other’s work
  • Develops writing skills

When preparing to use a discussion board, it’s important to make sure it’s effective.  Questions related to discussion boards might include:
  • How do you grade participation in a discussion board?
  • What requirements do you outline in advance for the students?
  • How do you ensure that students do not wait until the discussion is wrapping up to participate?
  • How do you keep students on topic?
  • How often should a teacher respond to posts?
  • Should students have to cite their sources in a discussion post?

I completed my masters online through Clarion University.  Discussion boards were usually used as a question prompt, and I had to answer the question and respond to two classmates.  While I know this may have been beneficial, I did not always feel we were making the most out of the discussion board.  Some other activity ideas include:
  • Ask Experts - Invite someone who knows about the topic to answer questions from your class on the discussion board.  This allows them to participate from any location.  There are plenty of online or community experts who would love the opportunity to answer questions posed by the students and a greater opportunity to participate in the classroom.
  • Debates - While this is something that you may already do face-to-face, it would certainly be possible to use this as an online tool as well, allowing students who might not participate as much in person to craft convincing arguments and think in depth before preparing their rebuttal.  It could be done as an extension or as a side activity while working on a different unit or a different project, so that students could come back to it in their spare time.
  • Polling - In the new ISTE standards from 2016, asking students to gather and analyze data is emphasized.  This is something that is used in a variety of career settings and would be beneficial for them to gather real-world data and then discuss the results on the discussion board.  Google Forms is a great way to start, but there are other web resources, such as PollCode for creating a survey.
  • Role Play - Asking students to role play encourages them to see a new side of a topic.  Having students respond as their “character” lets them consider a new viewpoint.  Another version of this might be de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, which could be used in conjunction with NEWSELA.
  • Peer Review - Student’s view each other’s work and leave constructive criticism on how they did, allowing for student growth.  They will gain new ideas and see new opportunities by sharing.  In this way, technology broadens the audience of a student’s work.

Learning is social.  Discussion boards have been and will continue to be a basic but effective way of creating learning opportunities for students.  If you have other ideas to add or if you want more resources on the topic, please email your friendly building librarian!


[Chromebook with speech bubbles]. (2013, November 8). Retrieved from

de Bono, E. (n.d.). Six Thinking Hats. Retrieved March 1, 2017, from The de Bono Group

Finley, T. (2014, August 21). New Classroom Questioning Techniques for the Best Year Ever.
Retrieved March 1, 2017, from Edutopia website:

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). 2016 ISTE Standards for Students
[PDF].Retrieved from

TeacherStream, LLC. (2010). Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation [PDF]. Retrieved