Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cherry Creek Bright Spot- Make History Come Alive Using Google Maps

As a district Technology and Learning Coach, teachers often ask me what great tool they should be using.  While there are tons of great technology tools out there that I can share, I always ask teachers to tell me what they want their students to learn, and then, if appropriate, we can find a tool to enhance the learning around that objective or goal.  

Taylor Whitley, a 5th grade teacher at Indian Ridge Elementary, uses a lot of technology in her class, but she always makes it a point to focus on the learning before the tool.  

I chose her class for a Bright Spot because she found a way to use Interactive Google Maps to help her students learn about explorers in a creative and collaborative way. Check out the Bright Spot video below to hear from Ms. Whitley and some of her students...

For more information on using Google Maps in your class to enhance learning, go to, where you'll find ideas from Google. 

If you would like to learn more about integrating math with technology at your school, please contact your Technology and Learning Coaches by filling out our form

If you or a teacher you know are using technology in an innovative way to transform learning, and you want to be highlighted in a Cherry Creek Bright Spot, please email Kris Edwards at

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Voices from the Classroom: Movenote and Student-Led Conferences

The Office of Instructional Technology has the pleasure of working daily with extraordinary teachers throughout the Cherry Creek School District.  "Voices from the Classroom" is one way we highlight innovative teaching and learning from the teachers themselves, in their own words.  
Our guest blogger today is Franzi Kuster from Antelope Ridge Elementary.  Franzi has been teaching 5th grade for 5 years and taught 4th grade for 1 year at Antelope Ridge.  

Movenote and Student-Led Conferences

In my classroom, Spring is the time for student-led conferences, but I wanted to give my students a voice during Fall conferences as well. So, I decided to use MoveNote to give my students that voice while parents are sitting with me discussing their child�s work.
After welcoming parents to their child�s conference, I would let them know that I had a quick video of their child to show them so that they could share some of their thoughts about the learning they had been doing so far this year. Parents were very impressed with the idea of using this type of technology tool and being able to see their child discuss their own learning. As a class, we had been working on growth mindset and progress monitoring, so students really were able to verbalize their understanding of their own learning.
To create these videos, we used MoveNote, a screencasting tool that lets you record, via your webcam, a video of yourself talking about a presentation that syncs to the slides. You can upload documents from Google Drive into a MoveNote presentation or you can use a screenshot or scanned documents. I had students pick one or two work samples to upload into the MoveNote slideshow. Since these work samples weren�t in Google Drive, they had to take a picture of their work sample using the Chromebook webcam. They saved the image and uploaded it into Google Drive as a .pdf or .jpg file. Once students had their images saved, I had them create a script to use as they added their voice/video recording to the slide show within MoveNote. I gave them bullet points that needed to be addressed in their script, and the MoveNote needed to be less than a minute long. In MoveNote, videos can be recorded until a "finished" product is created.
As students were creating their MoveNotes, I showed a few technologically strong students how to embed their MoveNote into their Schoology Portfolio. This way, I had some student helpers to work with the rest of the class along with me. After all MoveNotes were embedded into their Schoology Portfolios, I showed the whole class how make their Portfolios public and embed their MoveNotes into a Schoology assignment. This allowed me to have easy access to their Portfolios and MoveNotes during the actual conference.
Even for me, it was really interesting to see what items students selected to share in their MoveNote. This gave me some more insight into what was important to them and their metacognition.

A special thank you to Franzi for being willing to share the great things she is doing with her students in her classroom.  For more information about Movenote and the possibilities it creates please read the other posts on our blog which have featured Movenote here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Power of Positive Messaging

As previously posted, our blogs for this month are focusing on the Communication aspect of P21's 4 Cs. This week�s tip is about using Schoology and other tools to help increase positive communication in your classroom. As teachers, we all know the importance of ongoing communication with parents. The problem is that we often get into the habit of only letting parents know when their students are misbehaving or when there is a problem or concern. This leads to regular communication with only a small handful of parents, and those tough phone calls always seem to turn into 20 minute conversations.

Well here enters the Power of Positive Messaging. When teachers take the time to send positive messages to parents, they are building positive relationships with those parents as well as with students. Therefore, behavior issues start to decline, and when issues do come up, the parents are more likely to work with the teacher to help solve the problem.  

So let�s get to easy ways to send those messages. There are many tools out there that can help you, but today the main focus will be on building a positive community within Schoology. Schoology makes it easy for teachers to communicate with both students and parents through their messaging tool. To send a positive message to one of your students or the parents of one of your students, simply go to your Schoology course, click on Members, and click the wheel to the right of the student. There you will see the option to send a message, which will go to the student, or Message Parents, which will send an email to the parent(s) of the student.

While students are not given access to message each other in Schoology, they can message their teachers. This feature could be used for students to send positive messages to you about other students in class, which can provide you even more positive feedback for your messages to parents. 

Posting positive Schoology updates can also help create positive relationships with parents and students. You can post about your entire class, or by using first names if you feel comfortable with that. Maybe give a shout-out to some of your students each day or week for something they accomplished. 

Media Albums in Schoology can be used to show off positive behaviors and classwork as well. Simply use your phone to take and post pictures of kids doing great things, add a quick caption, and those can be seen by all of the members of your course and their parents. To learn more about Schoology's Media Albums, click here

Another great tool for positive parent communication is Class Dojo. If you aren't familiar with what Class Dojo can do for you, check out our post from last August about it by clicking here
The next time you have to make that tough phone call to a parent, take time to reflect about what the Power of Positive Messaging could do to help you build positive relationships with your students and parents in the future. Carve out a little time in your calendar each day, or even each week to give it a try and see what happens from there. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesday Tech Tip: Using Backchannel Chat in the Classroom

As posted last week, we're focusing on the Communication aspect of P21's 4 Cs during the month of February. Communication skills, vital for all students, can encompass myriad approaches and tools, but this week's tech tip is about using Backchannel Chat as a way to help students gain "an understanding of the protocols and norms of various digital tools. . .and a developed awareness of how to use technology safely and responsibly" (Wilkey Oh).

If you're not sure what exactly a backchannel is, it is "a digital conversation that runs concurrently with a face-to-face activity" (Holland, 2014). It provides a place to capture thinking, share ideas and resources, and communicate with others without interrupting the flow of an activity.  This can be a way for students to take notes collaboratively, ask questions to each other, and make meaning for themselves.

Backchannels might happen using something like Twitter or Today'sMeet (you'll see this happen at conferences), but when working with students, it's sometimes a good idea to have that happen in safe space that isn't public or publicly available.  That's where something like the Backchannel Chat app in Schoology comes in.

Backchannel Chat is a free app that teachers can add to any Group or Course in Schoology where they are an admin.  This opens a "room" that only members of your class or group can access (although a teacher can get an external join code to invite a person from outside of the class to participate).  Backchannel Chat also has paid versions that allow for more flexibility in features (file uploading, private messaging between teacher & student, and unlimited "rooms").

Unlike a Discussion Board, the chat happens in real time with no need to refresh. The chat can include live polling and anonymous posting (but the teacher can see names).  Chat transcripts are available after the chat, if needed, and you can use embed code to bring in external media for rich discussions.  And because the chat is moderated by a teacher, it provides both a way to assess and hold students accountable for content posted.

Silvia Tolisano's blog had this guide on using a backchannel with students:
Need more ideas?  Check out these resources:

As we look for more ways to help kids build digital skills in the 4 Cs, backchannels can be a great option to helping kids learn the power of collaborative conversations.

Oh, Erin Wilkey. "Communication in Practice � A P21 Member Perspective from Common Sense Media - P21." Communication in Practice � A P21 Member Perspective from Common Sense Media - P21. Partnership of 21st Century Skills. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. 

Holland, Beth. "The Backchannel: Giving Every Student a Voice in the Blended Mobile Classroom." 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tuesday Tech Tip: The 4C's...Communication

Have you heard of the 4C's? If we're talking to Tom Shane he would say color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. Alas, even though diamonds are a girl's best friend our topic is not diamonds, it's technology and learning. The 4C's are learning and innovation skills brought to you by P21, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning.
The 4Cs are:

But wait, let's take a step back. What is P21? They are an organization supporting learning by building partnerships in education, business, community and government leaders. Their mission is: 
to serve as catalyst for 21st century learning to build collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders so that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a world where change is constant and learning never stops.

Over the next 4 months we will be devoting our posts to the 4C's.  
This month we will focus on Communication. In March we will dive into Critical Thinking. April will be devoted to Creativity. And in May we will take a look at Collaboration.  

Our friends from Common Sense Education have created this introduction to the 4C's. Take a look.

Thought provoking? It is indeed...

Our students need to be able to go beyond and we need to embrace the 4C's with them. We must continue to think about how we can weave these skills in the classroom and into our own learning.

P21 and FableVision partnered to create this animated film called Above&Beyond. It's a story about what's possible when communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity take center stage and transform learning opportunities for all.

Your will you communicate about the 4C's?

Yes, diamonds are forever...but so are sound super skills that will last an eternity!  

CCSD Bright Spot: 5th Graders Create YouTube Style How-To Videos Using WeVideo

When Technology Teacher Jen Sevy from Fox Hollow Elementary kept hearing her 5th grade students explain how they learned to do things they...