Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Star Wars-Themed Mailbag on Instructional Technology on May the Fourth

May the Fourth be with you!

The Force One to World initiative is Awakened on the rise. We are Jedi teachers, armed with the best lightsabers MacBook Airs and iPads and ready to fight the battle for The Resistance the students against the evil of The First Order time. Jedi Teachers continue to use the Force best practices in a battle against the Dark Side instruction and assessment. The Resistance Students use lightsabers technology to wage war against the tyranny of evil of Kylo Ren and The First Order transform how they learn and demonstrate learning. There are still stormtroopers questions to destroy answer and this secret map mailbag will show you the way to Luke Skywalker help prepare you for an aerial space assault unlike anything you've ever seen a summer of professional development ahead of a gut-wrenching lightsaber duel great 2016-2017 school year.

This photo misspells "One to World" and "MacBooks and iPads" (

All of the following questions are actual questions posed by actual District 220 staff.

Hi Joe,
What technologies do our staff and students now have access to? What are the plans for next year?

This year, our BHS staff and students continued using their MacBook Air laptops. Every certified teacher and student received a MacBook Air laptop. Middle school certified teachers received both a MacBook Air laptop and an iPad Air, while the students received an iPad Air. Elementary certified teachers received a MacBook Air for the first time this year. Several teachers and students participated in the LaunchPad program, which provided selected teachers and students with access to iPad Air devices in preparation for all PK–5 teachers to receive an iPad Air this spring. Elementary students will receive one iPad Air per student in Grades 1–5 and one iPad Air per two students in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten. More on the One to World Initiative: 

Yo Joe,
What professional development is being offered to staff this spring and summer to help teachers learn to use the technology to improve instruction and assessment?

There are some pretty incredible options for teachers this year. This spring, we offered on-site Schoology training by Schoology experts to all BHS teachers to attend. Those opportunities were differentiated for the participants. BMS teachers attended staff meetings designed by Digital Age Learning coaches around self-directed instructional technology professional development opportunities stemming from teachers who either attended the ICE Conference or had a skill or workflow to share. Our elementary teachers received iPad Air devices and self-directed options for professional development offered by Instructional Digital Age Learning coaches, Librarians, TSAs, and Techs. These teachers used professional development time to choose from differentiated topics varying from "How to use the Camera App and AirDrop" to "Giving Students the Choice with Explain Everything, iMovie, and Schoology." Each topic was offered in the form of a screencast and printable tutorial in Schoology for later access.

Additionally, there are many learning opportunities for teachers offered through Staff University. These courses include subjects specific to learning technology skills or apps, such as "iPad Basics" or "Schoology Basics" and self-directed options such as the "Technology Playdate," an Edcamp-y, teacher-driven, laid-back approach to differentiated professional learning for PK-12.

Hey Joe-Joe,
I just learned about this amazing software/app called [insert name of amazing software/app here]. I'd like to try it out, but it costs [a bazillion dollars]. Can I get it for my students?

This is so tough for me. I mean, I'd love to just say "yes" to every request. When I taught, I asked for cool stuff all the time and then just hoped and prayed that my Director of Technology and Assessment would say "yes." So, I take these requests very seriously. A software request prompts me to research what we already offer, what the requested software offers, and then compare the value of what the requested software brings against what workaround we can cobble together at the price the requested software is quoted. When the request is an iPad app, this process can be much more tedious. Comparing one app request to the bajillion other apps available in the App Store is daunting, but we have a nice collection of apps that I've already reviewed this year (over 800); thus, the process a bit more smooth than it was in the fall. If you're interested in requesting any software or apps, please complete this Google Form: (Software/App Request Form). It helps when you also send me an email with as much information as you can offer about your request.

What's up with this blended learning mumbo-jumbo? Are you trying to push the teachers out and have students only learn online? Are we going to be the Barrington Virtual School District 220.0?

Blended learning in Barrington 220 is going to rock your socks. But, let's be clear: blended learning is an instructional strategy, not a technology initiative. Blended learning can be (and has been) done in absentia of 1:1 technology. Blended learning is about meeting the students at their ability level, prescribing personalized access to the content, measuring student understanding, and then repeating the process. Imagine a lot full of cars in need of mechanical attention. Blended learning allows teachers (mechanics) to address each car individually, rather than just replace all the carburetors, fix all the brakes, change all the oil, etc. Each car probably would benefit from those changes, but for the car that really just needs an oil change, replacing the carburetor and fixing the brakes isn't the best prescription in that moment. Blended learning requires that all students receive access to the content both through an online environment and face-to-face time with teachers. So, no, we aren't going to be the Barrington Virtual School District 220.0. And don't call me "JJ."

As always, you can contact me via email: or text/talk: 224.230.8520.

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