Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Speakable Documents, Unspeakably Easy!

Kathy Hempel, Library Media Specialist at BMS Station Campus, has been helping staff get the most out of paper resources that they want to convert to digital format and uploaded to Schoology. She has outlined a few helpful hints when trying to utilize the text-to-speech feature.
  • Documents scanned into the Xerox machine must be converted to a "live" Word document. 
  • If a PDF uploaded to Google Drive is viewed as an image, it must be converted.
  • Use the conversion tool
  • On your iPad, turn on text to speech:
    •  In Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech: Turn on Speech Selection
    • You can adjust the speaking rate from Turtle to Rabbit
  • On your Mac, follow these directions:
If you have technology tips to share, do not hesitate to reach out to any of the contributors to this blog to share in the next issue.

Thanks, Kathy!

Phishing: Sleepless Nights in IT

During this past week, our Barrington 220 colleague Bill received a phone call from a number that looked exactly like our tech support extension. The gentleman on the other end of the line asked Bill to work with him in changing his network password. Bill later realized that his password was never changed and that he had provided his current Google password information to a total stranger.

Not to be outdone, Marty was surfing the web one night and came across the absolute best chocolate lover’s website which asked him for a bit of personal information and an email address in exchange for some tasty samples sent his way. The next day he received an email that he thought was from another staff member. The email message read: “I share you special document. Click here.” Marty couldn’t help himself (he never can). He clicked on the link that brought him to a website halfway around the world. He then entered his Google username and password to receive the very special document. They didn’t even spell Google correctly, but that didn’t stop Marty! Twenty minutes later, almost all staff members at Barrington 220 recieved the same email message, only this time it was coming from Marty’s email account.

Then there is Mary! Mary is always so kind and helpful, so when she found the flash drive in the school parking lot, she stuck it in a PC. She was determined to try and find the owner of the “lost” drive so that she could return it to them. Thankfully the anti-virus on that PC had just received updates an hour before, rendering that potential network attack useless.

The names and stories here are fictitious here, but the stories are not far from the truth. Data breaches at Barrington 220 are most likely going to happen by deception and trickery. This past month, many a Barrington 220 staff member fell victim to some of this trickery and deception delivered via several email messages.  

This stuff is keeping me awake at night! Can we discuss some ideas on preventing these problems over a cup of Starbucks? Decaf will do!

Please review this information on Phishing attacks:

IC Grading Update

Spanish Grade Reports

The district is pleased to announce new and improved options for providing grade reports to our Spanish-only speaking families. The upcoming elementary fall grading period will introduce translated grade reports for Spanish-speaking parents. Spanish-translated grade reports are available at all levels, K–12, for the next grading period.

In prior years teachers needed to be aware of the specific language grade card each student needed. This year the process will be much easier for teachers due to the seamless translation of grades for any students requiring the Spanish grade report. Teachers will enter grades the same for all students, eliminating the duplicated standards translated in Spanish, thereby greatly reducing the amount of scrolling required to enter grades.

Elementary Grading Window

The grading window for K–5 will open on November 5, 2015, at 8:00 a.m. and close on November 18, 2015, at 4:00 pm. In an emergency the school office can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Report Cards will be made available on the Parent Portal on November 24, 2015, at 8:00 a.m.

Grade and Progress Updates

IC offers the flexibility for reporting beyond the standard report card. Additional progress updates have been added to the grading process.  Newer reports include:
  • Grades 1–2: PE Checklist
  • Grades 4–5: Orchestra Checklist
  • Grades K–5: Second Language Acquisition Reports
  • Grades K–12: ESL Progress
Best Grading Tips for K–5 Teachers
  • Grade K—All grades are entered on the Homeroom Roster. Remember, the comment field requires a "grade" of "CMNT" to be entered to trigger the printing of the narratives.
  • Grade 1–3—Most grades are entered on the Homeroom Roster. Art, Music, and Physical Ed grades are entered on those specific class rosters.
  • Grades 4–5—Individual grades are recorded for Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Reading, Art, Music, and Physical Ed. ALL narrative comments are reported through the Homeroom Roster. Remember, the comment field requires a "grade" of "CMNT" to be entered to trigger the printing of the narratives.
  • Copy and paste from Word has proven to be problematic and is never advised, but there has been success in copy and pasting from Google Docs or a text editor.
  • Writing comments can take a good amount of time. Be sure to save your work frequently to avoid loss of data!
Grade Book Assistance

We are pleased to announce that a new streamlined avenue for receiving assistance with the IC gradebook is available by email at Feel free to use this email address for any questions regarding the IC grade book. This email box is monitored daily. Teachers needing immediate assistance are encouraged to enter a "tech ticket" for Infinite Campus. Because we want to help everyone as quickly as possible we respectfully ask that you limit your request for help to one person. Often we find multiple people solving the same problem because multiple people are included on the same email. The often results in other people waiting for assistance. We would like to eliminate the delay in providing the timely service everyone deserves. Will you help?

Elementary and Middle School Math on iPad (VIDEOS)

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of visiting several classrooms throughout the district to watch how our teachers are integrating technology at various grade levels in various subject areas. When I visit, I often capture very short snippets of video on iPhone or iPad.

Last week, I had the fortune of visiting a Grade 3 math lesson and then a Grade 6 math class on back-to-back days. The more I learn about the Math in Focus curriculum, the more I wish that my own math learning experience could have been like this! At the same time, I very much enjoy watching our creative and articulate math teachers provide authentic problem-solving experiences to our students who are genuinely engaged by the many learning modes used during a single math lesson.

I saw some excellent examples of iPad integration when I visited the classes of Kim Gillengerten at Barbara Rose School and Meg Knapik at BMS Prairie. Kim Gillengerten is part of Barrington 220's LaunchPad iPad initiative—our first-year iPad rollout for Grades PK–5 in our One to World program. Meg Knapik is in her second year of teaching students with 1:1 iPads in Grade 6. As luck would have it, I saw students in both Grade 3 and Grade 6 using a visual learning technique called "Bar Modeling" to help students navigate sophisticated word problems.

In both classes, teachers used a combination of full-class discussions, partnering, and individual time to work through the problem-solving process. Both teachers used Schoology to distribute and collect student work. Both teachers also used Notability to allow students to annotate problems and record their thinking. In the Grade 6 class, students ended by creating a video in Explain Everything that allowed them to record their own voices and write on the screen as they created a “play-by-play” demonstration of their understanding.

Check out the two classes below (each video is less than 1 minute).

Kim Gillengerten, Grade 3 Math, Barbara Rose School

Meg Knapik, Grade 6 Math, BMS Prairie

DTC Recommends Schoology as Barrington 220 LMS

Since last year, the District Technology Committee (DTC)—comprised primarily of teachers representing buildings, grade levels, and departments across the district—has been discussing the possibility of naming a single Learning Management System (LMS) for use in Barrington 220.

Many considerations have been part of the DTC's LMS conversation, including:
  • Availability of professional development for teachers.
  • Ability to transition from former LMS platforms.
  • Ease of use for teachers and students.
  • Connectivity to Infinite Campus.
  • Availability of specific LMS features (assessments, linking of resources, etc.).
  • Flexibility of digital workflows.
  • Compatibility with different device platforms (OS X, iOS, others).
  • Appropriate user interface for multiple grade levels.
  • Communication features.
  • Simplified user experience for students (and parents) to be able to access and manage fewer systems to find day-to-day class information.
DTC member representatives reported that many teachers were interested in beginning to use a Learning Management System, but that teachers would feel more comfortable devoting the time to starting the process after an official decision was reached. The DTC has been fortunate to be able to bring authentic feedback from many district teachers already using several different Learning Management Systems.

After much deliberation, the DTC recommends Schoology as the Barrington 220 LMS. To support the decision, the DTC also recommends provisions for both timing and ongoing support. Here is the recommendation from the Barrington 220 District Technology Committee:

DTC Recommendation

Beginning in the 2016–17 school year, use Schoology as the official district Learning Management System (LMS). 
  • Provide adequate transition timing.
    • Teachers may use their current LMS throughout the 2015–16 school year. 
    • Teachers should begin making the transition to Schoology in 2015–16. 
    • If necessary, the district will keep a legacy LMS for a period of time during 2016–17 (for the purpose of accessing materials, not for teaching courses).
  • Provide support.
    • The district will provide transition support (moving files and resources).
    • The district will provide differentiated professional development.

iPad Resources, Interactive Lesson Tools, and More!

Three topics comprise the instructional technology post for the bsd220tech newsletter this month:

1. iPad resources, apps for creation, and app discovery practices.
2. Versal, a tool for creating lessons with interactive gadgets for personalized learning.
3. An article about Twitter, and why you should be on it.

Connecting with educators on Twitter as part of my personalized PLN (Personal Learning Network). I constantly receive helpful resources to use myself and share with teachers. This month, I'd like to highlight three resources especially pertinent for elementary and middle school teachers with iPads.

Using Explain Everything and Book Creator to Create
This article demonstrates step-by-step directions for using the workflow of Explain Everything to Book Creator for students to create using the iPads.

Using @Appolearining to connect with teachers and resources
If you're like me, you are overwhelmed at the shear quantity of apps available and recommended through the App Store. This article helps me cope with that anxiety and approach app and resource searching with a plan.

Resources for using iPads in Elementary and Early Elementary Classrooms
iPads are brand-to-relatively new to our classrooms in both elementary and middle school. Despite the title of this article being focused on elementary and early elementary, it contains helpful practices, ideas, resources, and philosophy for integrating iPads meaningfully at all grade levels.

When I taught middle school science, I loved using a now-defunct tool, Mightybell, to create online lessons and units that could be differentiated for students and consumed at the student's own pace.  This model allowed me to check in on student progress and spend the majority of class time checking in with students, grouping students for reteaching, workshopping experiments, etc. When Mightybell ceased to exist in this format, I lost an incredible tool. However, when I came across Versal, my heart leapt at the possibilities of this tool and its ability to differentiate like the venerable Mightybell. Versal offers teachers the opportunity to personalize learning and add interactive features, existing Google Docs, embed videos, gather assessment data, export to Schoology, etc. It looks awesome.  Just check out the promotional video:

If you're not aware of my endorsement of Twitter as "the best personalized professional development tool," please allow the following to confirm that statement. Twitter is the best personalized professional development tool. Using Twitter, you can connect to the resources, teachers, experts, etc., to benefit you and your specific professional development needs and wants. Don't believe me? Please read this great article, Using Tech and you are NOT on Twitter? Rethink that! from the great @alicekeeler.

Summer Tech Support In...and Out...of Barrington 220

Although our current weather may not belie this, summer is, indeed, coming! I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that our tech sup...