Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Flexible Learning Environments

Barrington 220 teachers have long used classroom funds, and sometimes even personal funds, to create comfortable and functional classroom spaces. More recently, flexible learning environments have become more of a focus in education. As adults, we understand how choices we make about where we work can influence our productivity and creativity. Now, more and more teachers are helping students learn to make the same choices.

Last week, Becky Wiegel, Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning, hosted a visit from Northbrook School District 28 at Barbara Rose with principal Derek Straight. The visit, organized by Instructional Digital Age Learning (iDAL) Coach Eliza Aliotta, featured a presentation about how flexible learning environments play a vital role in both our teaching and learning programs. In addition to our One to World program's focus on flexible learning environments, we are currently exploring the future of facility design through our current Blueprint 220 planning initiative.

The highlight of our Rose visit was highlighting many of our classrooms with flexible learning environments already in place. Shilpa Vakayil, Ilona Solymossy, Geneva Hillard, Kim Ryder, Heather Crandall, Kim Gillengerten, Mary Ryan, Pam Meiser, Xin Wang, Diana McKee, and Tonia Nowakowski all shared the philosophies behind their classroom spaces and allowed their students to reflect on their flexible learning environments.

Eliza Aliotta and several teachers from Rose, Heather Crandall, Kim Ryder, Geneva Hillard, and Shilpa Vakayil, showed off their classrooms and explained the reasons behind their arrangement, furniture, and other features.

Eliza's Video

Barbara Rose isn't the only school in Barrington 220 making great strides in flexible learning environments.

At Arnett Lines, iDAL Coaches helped their teachers curate and share flexible learning environment ideas through Padlet: Classroom Environment Ideas.

Kate Sokolowski, Grade 7 teacher and author at the Read, Write, and Reflect blog—and a great person to follow on Twitter @katsok—wrote a post about creating a flexible learning environment through flexible seating in her classroom: Flexible Seating in Middle School.

Kayla Delzer (@TopDogTeaching) was recently featured on Kelly Croy's (@KellyCroy) podcast, Wired Educator Podcast, for transforming her classroom with flexible seating. She shared how to provide different seating options for students on a budget and how to help students learn how to make good choices when choosing a seat—all with students in Grade 3. You can learn more by listening to the podcast, reading Kayla's article about flexible seating on Edutopia, and visiting Kayla's blog.

If you're working to create or enhance your flexible learning environment, share your ideas with your colleagues and the world on Twitter by using the hashtag, #flexiblelearningenvironment. Search that hashtag now to get started, or connect with others using #flexiblelearningenvironment and #flexibleseating.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Apple's Newest App: "Clips"

Apple recently released Clips, a new creation-based video app. Clips makes video creation and editing, SO easy. Teachers and students of all ages and levels of experience can use Clips to easily create short video clips.

Here's a quick introductory video about Clips (from MacRumors):

Here are some of my favorite features about Clips:
  • Allows users to create short videos (or take photos) by pressing a big, red button and holding it for the duration of the clip.
  • Overlays spoken text during a video clip recording on the screen. (This is amazing!)
  • Provides filters (similar to Instagram) for both videos and photos.
  • Allows the addition of stickers that can be resized and placed anywhere on the screen for taking photos or videos (similar to Snapchat).
  • Allows text-only title screens.
  • Easily allows deleting or reordering photos and video clips.
  • Shares videos to Explain Everything, Book Creator, Seesaw, Schoology, the Photos app, and many more.
Check out this awesome video, created by iDAL Coaches Laura Meehan and Katie Muhtaris:

Here is an in-depth video about all the functions of Clips (from 9to5Mac):

Clips is available for iOS and can be found in Self Service for all students and staff, Grades PK–8.

For more on using Clips in the classroom, check out this article from Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist, who is an excellent person to follow on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Assistive Technology Resources Site

Barrington 220 Assistive Technology Site Provides Resources for All Teachers
Kelly Key

Did you know you can take a picture of a worksheet with the iPad, have it read out loud, and then write, type, and highlight it? Are you familiar with all of the amazing accessibility features built into our iPad and MacBook Air devices? (i.e., clean up a website in Safari with a touch of a button, use your voice to write, read locked PDFs with the Snap & Read extension)?  Do you struggle with finding time to create core vocabulary materials for your students?

I have designed a Google Site full of resources to help you support your students that struggle with reading, writing, executive functioning, communication, and more. Visit the Assistive Technology website at bit.ly/220AT to explore these resources!

On the Assistive Technology site, check out all of  the topics on the left. Click on any of the titles or subtitles to find valuable resources. I update the site regularly and would love to add any additional materials that you have to share. Please e-mail me if you would like to see something added to the site.

Type bit.ly/220AT (it is case sensitive) into your browser and then go to Bookmarks > Add Bookmark... to bookmark it for quick and easy access!

Tech Terms Defined Nontechnically

“It’s like a fake ATM that prints out an error message when you try to use it, but in the meantime has taken your credit card details and PIN number.”

The Sideways Dictionary does not offer direct definitions of technology terms, but instead provides analogies, cultural references, or other non-techno-babble to explain terms to general audiences. The “fake ATM” example above is the Sideways Dictionary’s explanation for phishing, a nefarious tactic that has been on the rise lately in school districts, businesses, and the general public.

Another example is 2 factor authentication, a security protocol for users of systems such as your Apple ID that requires additional information beyond a username and password to access a service:

“It’s like meeting a blind date. You arrange the time and place (something you know) and agree to carry a red rose in order to recognize each other (something you possess)” (excerpted from Sideways Dictionary).

If the first analogy doesn’t connect with you or offer better understanding, other examples are also provided. Another contributor turns to Hogwarts to describe 2 factor authentication:

“It's like Harry Potter's wand. Harry knows all the spells but to cast one he needs his wand in his hand” (excerpted from Sideways Dictionary).

The next time you need a tech term explained, try Sideways Dictionary:

To Update or Not to Update: Revisited

One of the most often-asked questions I get from teachers and administrators is whether or not to update (or upgrade) software when it’s released. This question applies both to district-issued Macs and iPads, as well as personal iPhones and other devices. Last year, I wrote a short article on the topic.

In addition to questions, I often see teacher devices with a tell-tale red numeral on the App Store icon (indicating that updates are available), or an operating system clearly stuck one, two, or more versions in the past.

In each situation, my advice would be the same: update your device. 

The author of a recent article on one of my favorite tech blogs, Michael Potuck of 9to5Mac, agrees with this notion. He states, “App and operating system updates typically provide bug fixes, security updates, and introduce new features. While it’s possible that installing an update may cause an issue, it’s also possible that not installing the update could cause problems.”

Potuck goes far beyond giving that great advice; he also gives excellent step-by-step instructions for completing the various types of upgrades and updates available on a Mac, including accessing the App Store in macOS, updating apps downloaded from the web, and dealing with Adobe Flash Player.

Read Potuck’s excellent posts: 

Of course, the Barrington 220 tech support team is also available to help you with updates and upgrades. While in the district, simply call x.1500 to speak with a Tech Support Associate.

Congratulations to Department of Technology & Innovation Members!

Please join the Department of Technology & Innovation in congratulating Joe Robinson and Charlie Parkinson!

Apple is pleased to welcome Joe Robinson, Barrington 220 Director of Instructional Technology, to the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2017. The Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program began in 1994, when Apple recognized K–12 and higher education pioneers who use a variety of Apple products to transform teaching and learning in powerful ways. Today it has grown into a worldwide community of over 2,500 visionary educators and innovative leaders who are doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. Learn more about this group of innovative educators at www.apple.com/education/apple-distinguished-educator.

Barrington 220 recognized Technology Support Technician Charlie Parkinson as a Communications Ambassador this week. Morgan Delack, Barrington 220 Director of Communications, said, “Charlie Parkinson focuses on customer service before anything else, and it shows. Colleagues appreciate his thoughtfulness and kindness when calling for technology assistance. The positive way Charlie interacts with everyone he works with strengthens the Barrington 220 reputation and brand. He is a wonderful asset to our staff.”

PARCC and MAP on iPad

My name is Shawndra Shelton, I am the District Technology Assistant for Barrington 220. I work closely with Joe Robinson, and the Library/Technology Assistants (LTAs) to provide instructional technology support for teachers and students. I am responsible for onboarding, set-up, troubleshooting, and training for all subscriptions and apps utilized in the classroom.

Student VO.gif

The rollout of iPads in the elementary schools this year brought teaching and learning to a new level for teachers and students. With the world at their fingertips, students have the power to create, practice, teach each other, and learn together. Students and teachers alike are experimenting with new technology tools and enhancing their learning experiences. For many, integrating the iPad into everyday lessons has been a smooth and seamless process.

As always, testing plays a large role in the lives of elementary and middle school students and teachers. Testing season is upon us, and our technology support teams are gearing up for the busiest time of the year.

For the first time in Barrington 220, all students in Grades 3–8 will be taking PARCC test on their district-issued devices. Over the last several weeks the LTAs have been meeting with the assessment team for training and support for the upcoming tests. From lockdown applications to testing tickets, SIS uploads, and sandbox trials, Ben Ditkowsky and Marijana Jensen have been knowledgeable, patient, and helpful in leading us through the preparation. Preparing a building for PARCC testing requires significant behind-the-scenes work, and the leadership and expertise of the assessment team has been invaluable.

At the beginning of March, the LTAs hit the ground running with the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA), a battery of tests featuring required online testing. The online requirement is new this year, but with the ISA secure lockdown browser installed on the iPad and MacBook Air devices, testing was virtually painless for students in Grades 5 and 8, and all students enrolled in Biology courses at BHS. The ISA window for Barrington closed on March 17, 2017, and preliminary reports from the buildings indicate a seamless transition to online testing—a huge success!

The timeline for PARCC and MAP is particularly tight this year because the testing windows overlap.

The Barrington 220 window for MAP testing is open from April 5–19, 2017. All tests (including make-up tests) for students in Grades 2–8 must be completed during this timeframe. LTAs coordinate with the Assessment Department and TPACK teams to complete uploads of class rosters, push out testing applications or browsers, and provide training and directions for all test proctors. Working closely with the building principals and classroom teachers, the LTAs schedule and implement the test. On testing day, LTAs will be busy ensuring that the tests begin and finish on time, answering last-minute questions, troubleshooting, and lending support to teachers and students.

Student Work.gif

PARCC testing will begin on April 10, 2017, for students in Grades 6–8 and on April 17, 2017, for students in Grades 3–5. Both windows will close on April 28, 2017. The checklist for PARCC is long and detailed. The LTAs and Assessment Department must begin preparing and training well in advance to ensure that testing day is successful for all. The LTAs collaborate with the Assessment Department, the TPACK teams, building principals, and teachers to prepare, schedule, and implement testing in an organized and timely manner.

Since students will use their district-issued iPad devices, testing days should be far less chaotic than in years past. We will no longer need to move laptops from classroom to classroom or focus so much time and energy to ensure all devices are charged. The iPad devices are expected to weather the testing storm well. Teachers are advised to remind students to charge their devices the night before.

Together, the LTAs and I look forward to working together with all staff and students to experience a positive month of standardized testing.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can always connect with the LTA in your building, or contact me via email at sshelton@barrington220.org.

Upgraded Staff Laptops on the Way

Part of sustaining our district’s One to World initiative includes regular updates to staff devices. Currently, our teacher laptops are all the same model, a MacBook Air 13-inch laptop, but the specific specifications vary depending upon the year they were purchased.

An opportunity recently arose that will allow our district to update all our MacBook Air teacher laptops, synchronize future teacher device acquisitions to a single cycle, and greatly offset the cost of a new purchase by selling our current teacher laptops to an asset company for a significant revenue.

Newly purchased MacBook Air laptops for teachers will again be the same model as our current laptops, MacBook Air 13-inch. However, the specifications of new laptops for teachers will include double the RAM (8GB) and new batteries that will allow longer use (5–7 hours on a full charge). Depending on the model you are using currently, other specifications will either remain the same or increase (new model specification: 13-inch, 1.6GHz i5, 8GB, 128GB flash storage, Intel HD Graphics 6000.)

The Barrington 220 technology support team is currently designing a process to migrate data from current teacher laptops to new laptops in the most efficient manner possible. We will contact each building with a process, timeline, and schedule to make the change. Our plan will allow us to complete the transition to a new device before teachers leave for Summer 2017.

For this upgrade cycle, the district plan is to work with an asset company and sell our used laptops. We do not plan to offer used teacher laptops for sale back to staff members. In the future, this practice may be more feasible when all laptops are identical and on the same acquisition cycle.

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...