Friday, July 28, 2017

Dealing with Digital Distraction Episode 1: How Technology Amplifies Student Engagement, Accountability, and On-Task Behavior with Heather Chvojka

This is the first installment in Barrington 220's Dealing with Digital Distraction series. The series will highlight how Barrington 220 teachers and students continue to learn and use strategies to manage digital distraction.

Digital Distraction Strategies

Heather Chvojka is a math teacher at Barrington Middle School—Station Campus. Her math lessons focus on on-demand, individualized learning experiences that offer student choice. Like many middle school classes, this class includes students who sometimes veer off task and feel attraction to apps, games, and notifications that could easily cause distractions and affect engagement during the entire class period.

How does Heather deal with potential digital distractions? She highlights three key strategies for managing digital distraction:
  • Set device expectations in advance
  • Engage students by engaging with students
  • Create a learning environment of freedom and mutual trust

Classroom Highlights

During the final full week of school during the 2016–2017 school year, I visited Heather Chvojka's math class of Grade 8 students at BMS Station Campus during the final period of the day. This class was similar to other classes in late May—students entered the room with lots of energy and at a high volume.

Within minutes the students engaged in the lesson and remained engaged until the final bell signifying the end of the school day. This short video clip demonstrates that Heather's math class certainly didn't resemble the math classes I remember that were characterized by direct instruction; straight rows of seated students; and a methodical, algorithm-based, step-by-step delivery.

A couple of strategies stood out. After Heather explains the lesson objective and gives the options for how students can choose to demonstrate learning, students select where they wish to sit and with whom they will work independently. Students chose to work with friends, classmates of a similar achievement level, or independently.

Students work to solve problems using multiple modes of media including personal or wall-mounted whiteboards with dry erase markers, calculators, iPad devices, and paper/pencil.

IXL and Classroom help Heather's students students engaged, accountable, and on task. Using these two tools, she can monitor student progress and catch opportunities to provide just-in-time guidance for her students.

Heather uses proximity to guide students toward on-task behavior while simultaneously providing specific, timely feedback and instruction to other students using Apple Classroom.

With Apple Classroom teachers can see all student iPad devices in the classroom and zero in onto specific screens to monitor progress in real-time. When a student raised his hand for help, Heather used Apple Classroom to look at that student's iPad screen so she could respond with the exact instruction needed at that moment, based upon the work she saw on the screen.

Using the online math subscription service IXL, Heather can monitor the live progress of each student; she may also choose to connect the IXL Classroom Dashboard (the "teacher view") to the projector display. The IXL Classroom Dashboard is organized on the screen by Common Core math standards and by the number of questions each student has answered during the time period—all updated and displayed in real-time.

In general, Heather chooses to give students some choice and control, allows them to be engaged, and then supports them when they need on-demand feedback to continue learning.

I would like to convey a special "thank you" to Heather for taking the courageous leap to allow us a glimpse into her classroom, and for sharing her time and insights through her reflections.

The Apple Classroom app is free and built into the iOS 10 operating system installed on our iPad devices. Check out this post about Classroom. The tools described and shown within the IXL program are also available to teachers using other online subscription math programs.

Please see your LTA, Teacher Librarian, or Instructional Digital Age Learning (iDAL) coach for more information.

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017-18 Instructional Technology Software Updates

We have several instructional technology service announcements to prepare for 2017–18!

PK–12 Teachers & Students

For our online technology tool training needs, we will be subscribing to this year (in place of Atomic Learning). provides users with video clips to help learn different technology tools, such as Schoology, iPad, Evernote, Keynote, and many more. You can access
  1. Navigate to 
  2. Teachers and students login using or email address and password
PK–8 Teachers & Students

Our subscription to Defined STEM ended on Friday, June 30, 2017, since the elementary Science Steering Committee has completed their work using these resources.

Due to a very low usage rate, we are discontinuing access to Gizmos, virtual science simulations, at BHS.

We are shifting from RAZ Kids to Epic! for students in Grades PK–2 and myON for students in Grades K–5. We will continue to have access to RAZ Kids for students in Grades K–1 or in literacy support classes. Read more about Barrington 220 digital texts here.

We are shifting away from Compass Learning and many other math software solutions for students in Grades PK–5 to Reflex Math and TenMarks. Read more about Barrington 220 math apps and services here.

The growth in use of KidBlog in Grade 3 spurred a decision to extend access to include students in Grades 3–5. Here's how you can access KidBlog after July 1, 2017:
  1. Navigate to 
  2. Click Login with Google and use your email. Your email will automatically add your account to the Barrington 220 subscription.
  3. Students will log in and join a classroom using a code provided by the teacher.
You can see an updated list of our subscriptions here:

Seesaw for Schools

Seesaw for Schools is new for 2017–18. If you use and love the free version of Seesaw, you will find this new option very exciting. While the look and function of Seesaw will be the same, the new subscription offers more features including: school-wide analytics and management, unified portfolios that follow students from class to class and grade level to grade level, a Seesaw for Schools dashboard which offers actionable data at a glance, and formative assessment tools.

All current Seesaw users will be connected to our paid subscription automatically. New users will be added in the next few weeks. Seesaw for Schools is scoped for all staff and students in Grades K–5.

Access Seesaw for Schools
  1. Navigate to (access teacher dashboard and classes).
  2. Existing Teacher accounts will be added to our subscription by domain ( New accounts will be uploaded by July 15, 2017. Each teacher will receive a notification when their individual account has been upgraded.
  3. Students will access Seesaw from the Seesaw App downloaded from Self Service. Student accounts will be uploaded and attached to their homeroom teacher by August 15, 2017.
  4. Teachers may also access their class by downloading the Seesaw App from Self Service on the iPad and logging in.

Get Amped for Schoology AMP

Schoology AMP is an Assessment Management Platform that is tied directly to Schoology. The tool encourages you to expand your usage of Schoology as a Learning Management System to include easy access to meaningful and aligned assessment data. Assessments can be created or added from an exterior source, and content can be aligned to standards or rubrics with a direct link to curriculum.  AMP offers easily accessible actionable data right at your fingertips. Schoology AMP will be available for all users 9-12 district-wide.

Schoology AMP includes these added functions:
  1. Collaborate and author assessments or import third-party item banks.
  2. Use new, technology-enhanced item types.
  3. Align assessments to standards and curriculum.
  4. Align assessments to rubrics giving teachers the ability to use the results for grading.
  5. Use a versioning tool for easy revisions and updates pushed to sections or courses.
  6. Improve student outcomes by analyzing individual scores, as well as aggregated data.

Access Schoology AMP

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Schoology AMP will be available within Schoology in the coming weeks. Teachers will add assessments and view analytics from their individual login.

New Math Apps and Services for Grades PK–5

At the start of the 2016–17 school year in Barrington 220, we subscribed to the following math software subscriptions throughout the district: FASTT Math, Xtra Math, Math in Focus, IXL, Compass, Quick Math, Dreambox, Splash Math, Reflex Math, and TenMarks. That's too many. We have amazing teachers and given the explosion of technology access and subsequent growth of digital math resources, we found many effective ways to engage students with more math practice.

As our district continues to focus on the best tools for learning, we have acknowledged the need to more closely vet the use of digital math resources to align to Barrington 220 math standards.

Our elementary Math Steering Committee formed a subcommittee including Bridgette Hurst (Grade 5 teacher at Grove), Lisa Christianson (teacher at Arnett Lines), Jeff Simon (Grade 1 teacher at Arnett Lines), George Vlasis (Kindergarten teacher at Hough), Shawndra Shelton (District Technology Assistant), Loretta Johnson (Instructional Digital Age Learning coach at Sunny Hill), Laura Meehan (Instructional Digital Age Learning coach at Arnett Lines and Hough), Joslyn Katz (Instructional Digital Age Learning coach at Grove and Roslyn Road), Becky Wiegel (Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning), and me (Director of Instructional Technology).

It was our goal to find the best resources for our teachers and students, particularly with an eye on two main teaching and learning needs: fact fluency and content supplementation. We focused on tools meeting our needs in the areas of access, engagement, connection to growth in skills (particularly with options of concrete, pictorial, and abstract representations), entertainment, and a positive iPad user experience. We also looked for tools to allow teachers to track student growth progress, group students for differentiation, and measure student time engaged in learning.

We researched the apps and services mentioned above and included several more options as part of our initial study. Ultimately, the group narrowed the list to just two options for students in Grades 1–5: Reflex Math for fact fluency and TenMarks for content supplementation. Given the reading level of TenMarks, the group agreed the tool best suited students in Grades 1–5, where we identified the greatest need for content supplementation. 

Here is a video highlighting some of the feedback from our teachers and students using Reflex Math and TenMarks:

A second subcommittee was formed to include all of the Kindergarten teachers on the Math Steering Committee. This group identified some apps to fill in the gaps. The apps selected include Math Number Rack, Number Frames, 10 Frame Fill, Number Pieces Basic, Math Doodles, Math Doodle Attributes, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, Dexteria Dots, Osmo Numbers, Dragon Shapes, Geoboard, Pattern Shapes, Quick Math Jr., and Animal Math.

After this investigation, our subcommittee determined that, given the exponential growth in math resources, we must continually evaluate the programs available to our students; thus, we will continue our efforts next year. We also hope to grow this project to include middle school and high school.

Here are directions to access Reflex Math and TenMarks:

Reflex Math

Teachers will be invited to join our subscription via an email sent directly from Explore Learning.  Please be sure to check your spam folder if you do not receive an invitation by July 15, 2017.
  1. Navigate to 
  2. Teacher Login: Created by teacher via emailed directions from Explore Learning Email.
Students will access this math fact fluency program through an app downloaded from Self Service on the iPad.  On-boarding for students will be completed by August 15: all student information will be uploaded and the account will be tied to their homeroom teacher. Rosters and login cards can be printed from the teacher dashboard or from the building admin account held by the LTA.
  1. Students download the Reflex Student App from Self Service.
  2. Students login using a class name supplied by the teacher and a password provided by Explore Learning.

Students will access Tenmarks from the app downloaded from Self Service. Account set-up for teachers will be completed over the next couple of weeks, student accounts will be active by August 15. TenMarks is scoped for students in Grades 1–5.

Click here to see the log on process (directions contain a password)

New eBook Services for Grades PK–5

This quote from Stacey Riedmiller (@literacybigkids) and tweeted by our very own Instructional Digital Age Learning Coach, Katie Muhtaris, explains the steps we took regarding access to digital texts for our elementary students.

Barrington 220 students love to read, and they read a staggering number of books. Students in our elementary schools can check out up to 5 books in a given week. Students ready voraciously in their English Language Arts class throughout their PK–12 experience. Thanks to the work of our amazing teacher librarians, students read traditional print books and they also access digital texts through services like OverDrive, Follett Shelf, and more.

Current research, best practice, and teachers across grade levels understand the common wisdom that surrounding students with nonfiction and fiction texts supports learning concepts in every content area. Need to understand a concept like symbiosis? A teacher might direct you read a nonfiction textbook explaining the definition and implication in biology and then recommend Black Beauty for a fictional insight into how people and horses interact.

This growth in reading across all content areas requires more access to nonfiction and fiction texts both in print and digitally. At the elementary level, the Reading Steering Committee volunteered Sarah Dowdy (Grade 3 teacher at Arnett Lines) and Melissa deBruin (Grade 2 teacher at Grove) to join a subcommittee with Shawndra Shelton (District Technology Assistant), Kelly Pinta (Instructional Digital Age Learning coach at Countryside), Kathy Hempel (District Library Liaison), Becky Wiegel (Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning), and me (Director of Instructional Technology).

We engaged in research on the best practices of reading with digital texts to create a vision of what our students need from a digital text provider. The list for students includes:
  • easy access to both fiction and nonfiction texts
  • ability to annotate, highlight, draw, listen to, and share text
  • display well on iPad
Teachers sought tools for managing student reading habits, such as recommending books, measuring time spent reading, pages turned, short assessments, and lists of texts that match the titles we currently value.

We then contacted the vendors as we researched the ever-growing crowd of digital text providers to find the best options for our students. Along the way, we realized no tool completely met the needs above. A couple of vendors met our requirements from a functionality perspective, but did not carry many titles. Some vendors did not have programs that worked well for students on iPad. Some vendors would only allow a certain numbers of texts to be checked out to students at a time. In short, no vendor has yet helped to bring order to the multitude of publishing companies for digital text industry in the same that Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora have organized and brought standardization to digital music industry.

The group reached out to their peers on the Literacy Steering Committee, and over the last six weeks of the school year, several teachers used trials of three programs to engage students in reading digital texts. The trials allowed us to evaluate the impact of celebrations and challenges of each tool and help guide our decision.

We tested three options that offer many features we are seeking: Epic!, myON, and Actively Learn. Epic! offers a Netflix-like user interface that students love. Epic!'s algorithms match student interests with texts and engage readers. In our experience so far, students routinely chose and completed more texts while using Epic!. The myON service offers the widest library of texts coupled with the functionality we sought. Although myON does not have an dedicated iPad app, it can be used in the Safari app. Actively Learn provided the best in-text functionality, allowing our students to best meet and exceed our standards for literacy skills, but the access to texts and overall cost of the program brought concerns.

Here is a video highlighting some of the feedback from our teachers and students piloting the use of Epic!, myON, and Actively Learn:

Ultimately, our subcommittee, the Literacy Steering Committee, and our students valued myON as a digital literacy resource above all others. Carefully considering all the facts—including cost—we decided to move forward with myON for students in Grades 1–5 and Epic! for students in Grades 1–2.

Epic! and myON will join (not replace) OverDrive and Follett Shelf. OverDrive draws from our district libraries and the Barrington Area Public Library, and Follett Shelf will continue to offer the many titles we already own on this platform. Also, Epic! and myON will not replace RAZ Kids for our Kindergarten students or literacy support classes.

After this investigation, our subcommittee determined that, given the exponential growth in the number of resources focused on digital reading, we must continually evaluate the programs available to our students. Further, we will continue these efforts next year. We also hope to grow this project to include middle school and high school.

Here are directions for accessing Epic! and myON:


A reading app scoped for grades PK-3.  Students can choose from a vast collection of books to read alone, or to have read aloud, there are a number of videos, audio files, and animations available as well.
  1. Navigate to
  2. Follow the steps to create a free Epic! teacher account.
  3. Students join via classroom code.
  4. Start Reading! 
  5. Epic! offsets the free teacher accounts by charging for home use by students, our Barrington 220 subscription will cover these costs.  

Account set-up for teachers will be completed over the next couple of weeks. Student accounts will be active by August 15. The myON service is scoped for students in Grades 1–5.

Click here to see the log on process (directions contain a password).

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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...