27 Feb 2018

The Paper Paradox


Start by watching the video above. Watched it? Great! I hope it was worth a chuckle. More importantly, know that this is the perspective Shakopee DLCs take regarding paper: There is a time and a place where paper is a better choice than using digital tools.


If we cannot explain to our students why it is better that we are using technology for a particular task, then it is probably not worth doing digitally. I heard a teacher tell students, “We are using Notability to highlight this article because then you can undo mistakes and use more colors. It’s also nice to have it in Notability because you’ll need this article for a long time so it won’t get lost or ruined.” That explanation makes sense, and students will understand that there is added value in using technology.


But if a teacher were to simply provide a digital copy to students and not explain the added benefit, students are far more likely to get frustrated with the effort required to type on an iPad screen or draw with a MacBook trackpad.


I am biased in this discussion. I rarely use paper. Meeting agendas, to-do lists, notes, reminders, and nearly everything else I do in the course of my work is digital. I see a lot of advantages: I always have my phone or computer with me, I can type faster than I can write, typing looks neater, and digital files are easier to share with others. For teachers that do not use technology in the ways I describe above, paper is just as essential as my computer or phone is to me. Both methods are equally valid. Whatever works for you is great. But what works best for your students may be different.


As teachers, it’s our job to help students discover how they learn best, even if it does not align with our own preferences. This may require them to get outside their comfort zone. Exposing students to multiple methods of doing tasks is an essential part of becoming an independent learner.

Regardless of the notetaking method you promote in your classroom or your students’ preferences, there are a number of reasons to consider submitting notes and other assignments digitally. Even if your students are completing their work on paper, it is very easy to submit that work digitally through Canvas - see the resources at the bottom of this blog post to find out how to scan documents on an iPad or MacBook.


As I mentioned above, it is important to spell out to students why it is better for them to turn things in digitally. So what are the advantages?

  • Students can turn things in anytime, anywhere. They could be absent, in study hall, or even on the bus! They can turn work in when they are done instead of waiting until they are physically in your classroom.
  • You don’t need to create a place in your room for assignment collection, spend time in class handing back papers, or worry about losing anything.
  • No more “No Name” assignment submissions!
  • You can provide prompt feedback on smaller chunks of work rather than waiting for the end of the unit to collect work or check notebooks. Students can submit each page they complete and it can be graded as you go without taking away their notes when they could be using it to study.
  • Parents will know if assignments have been turned in or not and they can see the quality of their child’s work. This is great during parent-teacher conferences. No more parent questions about whether work has been turned in or not - and they get to actually see the work, even if their child threw it away.
  • Students can look back on their previous work for reflective purposes.


Digital submission is one of the first steps towards integrating technology into your teaching practices. In a future blog post, we’ll examine how technology can be used to create experiences for students that cannot be replicated on paper.



Use Notes App to Scan Documents (iPad)

Use PhotoBooth to Scan Documents (MacBook)

Grade Using the Canvas Teacher App (iPad)

25 Mar 2016

We all need to be gone from school from time to time. Whether we are ill, have sick kids, or have articulation or committee meetings, absences happen. When we leave our classroom, we don’t know exactly what to expect when we get back. We might have multiple teachers cover our classes or a sub that we’ve never met before. Often times we are just hoping that there weren’t any behavior problems! We feel like we lose a day of instruction when we are gone.


So how can we “be” at school, even when we aren’t able to be physically present? And how can we save time making sub plans that might get lost or be completely ignored?


Many secondary teachers have been using Canvas to provide directions, assignments, and resources. This is a huge benefit for those teachers that use Canvas regularly and have expectations on how students use and access it. And while you’re gone, you could even double-check their work before your students arrive in class the next day!


But what if your students don’t have devices or your class is not using Canvas?


Have you considered screencasting? Simply put, screencasting means that you are recording whatever is on your computer screen and you turn it into a video. Now you can give directions to your class, your sub, and use your own words and materials to do so!


Tools Needed:


Your presentations, documents, and voice

Google Drive account and/or YouTube Channel


Step 1: Open QuickTime on your MacBook. While there are other tools to screencast, this one is built into every MacBook. Click File, then New Screen Recording. Click once in the middle of the screen to record your entire screen and then hit the record button. Sidenote: follow these directions to display your iPad on your MacBook to record it.


Step 2: Now that you are recording, guide your students and sub through the materials that you have for their lesson. This can include ANYTHING you can use on your computer, including SMART notebook files, PowerPoints, Word documents, PDFs, and more. Try to keep your directions concise and clear so there is no confusion, since you won’t be able to answer questions! And don’t be afraid to mess up; just keep talking and then edit out your mistakes later.


Step 3: When you click the record button again to stop recording, you can save your video to your Desktop or Google Drive. Depending on your preference, you can simply share the video with students in Google Drive by sharing it as “anyone with the link can view.” YouTube is another great option. Check out these directions to set up a YouTube Channel.


Step 4: Share your video. In Drive, it’s easiest to make your video “anyone with the link can view” and then post the link somewhere like your website, Canvas, or whatever. Another great method of sharing links is using a short link. You can create short links with one click by using either the URL shortner or, both of which have Chrome Extensions. does offer the ability to change the name of the link so that they are easier to type in.

Optional: Edit your video! Perhaps you have a few videos clips or just messed up a small part. Either way, the best method is use iMovie. It can be downloaded for free through the Mac App Store. Clip out the parts you don’t need, add all the clips and media you want in one video, save it, then upload it to YouTube. While this is another time-consuming step, this does make your videos more engaging and professional. And if you plan to reuse this video, you may want to edit.

15 Mar 2016

Here are five ways to get started getting the most out of your Mac. Anyone can use these MacBook tools! Are you a 9th grade teacher looking for some new uses for student MacBooks? Or perhaps you are a 10th-12th grade teacher thinking ahead to next year? MacBooks can be used in a lot of productive and creative ways with your students.


1) Preview - Preview is a tool that is built into your MacBook. It allows you to take an image or PDF file and add shapes, text, drawings, highlights, and more. This is perfect for highlighting texts, editing pictures, or taking notes on a graphic organizer. Click here for more information and a student handout.


2) QuickTime - Wait, you mean that media player that pops up when I open videos? Yes, that QuickTime! It can be used to display an iPad to a classroom, screencast (record your screen) to create flipped lessons or sub plans, or simply record audio files to use in iBooks Author to turn your book into an audiobook!


3) iMovie - iMovie is free with new MacBooks and can be found in the Mac App Store. iMovie is your go-to video editing software for your MacBook. You can add videos, images, music, sound effects, and voice overs to your projects. For more detailed information and screencasts on how to use it, click here.


4) iBooks Author - iBooks Author is a free tool that you can get from the Mac App Store. It allows the creation of interactive e-books that can be used on iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. These books can include hyperlinks, images, videos, interactive images that you can caption with hotspots, and even check-in quizzes. A few teachers have used this to create children’s books for elementary school students. And if you want, you can easily publish your final creation to the iBooks Store to sell. Now that’s an authentic audience!


5) Chrome - Technically, Chrome isn't a MacBook tool because you can use it anywhere! It’s easy to overlook, but the Chrome Internet browser is an incredibly powerful tool. It can definitely do more than simply access websites! You can use extensions, which are little pieces of software that increase your organization and productively immensely. Using Chrome, you can also sync your bookmarks across different devices if you are logged in with your Google Account. And of course, using Chrome is the recommended tool to interact with Google Drive and Canvas.


*Safe Exam Browser - Safe Exam Browser is a perfect solution for taking quizzes on the MacBook while using Canvas. It is a locked-down Internet browser that disables the dock, screenshots, copy/paste, and moving between applications. Students must complete their quiz before exiting this browser. Click here for more directions.

09 Nov 2015

I think I speak for the entire DLC team when I say, “Wait. It’s already November?” This school year has been an exciting and busy start the school year. The DLC team has been busy working to support teachers and PLCs across the district as they integrate technology into their teaching practices to enhance the learning of students.

Last year was the first year where a building was 1:1 with iPads. This year, that initiative has expanded from one grade to all of 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. In Kindergarten last year, each classroom shifted to an all-day schedule. Each classroom was also equipped with a cart of 12 iPads. That initiative has moved up to 1st grade this year.

In addition to all of these devices being deployed to buildings across the district, each certified staff member has been provided a MacBook Air. At articulation meetings, vertical teams, PLCs, and while rotating classroom, staff members have been using their mobile technology to increase their productivity. While switching operating systems for the majority of staff in the district comes with a learning curve, being able to use these devices for months prior to the removal of desktop PCs should ease the transition to a predominately MacBook environment.


At the elementary buildings, we have been working with Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers often. The DLCs have been into all elementary buildings. Many of the K and 1 classrooms are starting to use an app called SeeSaw. It’s a multimedia digital journal of student’s work and has been very well received by staff, students, and parents alike. Students can upload pictures, videos, and files to SeeSaw, add a drawing and voiceover to their creation, and share their work with their teacher and parents. For example, a student might take a picture of counting manipulatives and draw a dot on each object as they count the number of objects outloud. Staff have also really enjoyed using Book Creator for projects and using their iPads at learning centers to provide differentiated instruction to all their students at the same time!

The media centers at all elementary and secondary buildings have also received a cart of iPads. In addition to the influx in devices, each media center is now equipped with a green screen studio! Students are using it to record immersive and authentic videos to demonstrate their learning, practice public speaking, and showcase their creativity.


The DLCs have been meeting with PLCs on a regular basis during PLC meetings, duty hours, and preps. A huge focus for our work with secondary teachers this year has been the adoption and on-going use of Canvas, our learning management system. Staff are using it to provide a one-stop-shop for due dates, distribute and collect digital files, administer quizzes, participate in discussion boards, make class more self-paced, provide detailed feedback, and much more.

With the start of another year in a 1:1 environment for Pearson, technology has empowered them to personalize learning for their students. One of the interdisciplinary teams of teachers and students has initiated a personalized learning environment. In addition to changes to their bell schedule, they plan to enable students to take more ownership of their learning. Each day, students will schedule what sessions they attend. The content of their courses will set up in a way in which students prove mastery of concepts and proceed at their own pace using Canvas and other digital tools. With a device in every kid’s hands, learning can happen anytime and anywhere. And the variety of creative tools at their disposal allows them to collaborate in real-time or asynchronously.

At the Junior High levels, all students have a device of some kind. 7th and 8th grade students are equipped with iPads and 9th graders have MacBook Airs. We’ve seen some awesome projects at the Junior High level, including a iBooks Author project where Spanish 2 and German 2 students made e-books and read them to 5th grade students at Sweeney. Some staff have also started recording their own screencasts so that students can listen to a lesson on how to learn to write an argumentative paragraph if they need more support with the skill. Then students used an app called Edpuzzle to answer questions about the video. Finally, students practiced the skill in a written assignment on Canvas. New electives, such as Digital Art and App Creation, have made the most of these digital tools while training students to use their creativity and critical thinking to master skills they can use in their future careers.

The DLCs really look forward to working with teachers on projects and lessons that infuse technology to enhance the learning of their students, engage every student in the room, expand the audience of their work, and develop critical skills they will need for their entire lives. We would love to come in and meet with you or your PLC to plan a lesson or project so fill out a request today!

Popular Blog Posts