Monday, December 19, 2011

Skyward Standards Report Card–A Reminder In Verse

I was feeling a little creative over lunch earlier today and waxed a bit poetic while answering a teacher’s question about how to enter grades & skill marks in Skyward’s Standards Grade Book. If you’re interested in my attempt at a bit of lyric prose, read on… If not, I won’t blame you a bit…

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‘Twas the day before Winter Break, and all through the school,
Teachers were starting to panic, a few started to drool.
Their papers were graded, recorded with care,
In hopes their Report Card grades would magically appear!
“The children are gone, now mocking us,” they thought
“I just want to ditch this computer and walk!”
“I’ll put on my kerchief, then put on my cap,
“When the #@!! do I get MY ‘long winter’s nap’?”
When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Fellow teachers were frantically rifling through piles,
Of Skyward HOW-TOs, moaning, “It’s in one of these files!”
I saw tears on their cheeks, their make-up brought fright,
‘Twas then I remembered: Matt’s Skyward Help Web site!
At the top of the page I gave a quick look,
The first entry said something about Standards Gradebook!
So we clicked on the link. Relieved sighs were let out.
This document explained what we’d all worried ‘bout!
“But wait!” said the Art teacher. “Mine differs!” he wallowed.
And those teaching PE, Music, and Library soon followed.
“Place your skill marks in columns under headings solid-colored,
“And your grades will appear. Principals needn’t be bothered!”
With this information we’ll finish grades quick,
And maybe relieve a few stressed facial tics!
“If we finish this soon we can go wet our whistles,”
So away they all flew as if strapped onto missiles!
Soon our grades and skill marks were all put to bed,
And we realized these fears had been all in our heads.
Then we straightened our classrooms. Long minutes caused woe.
‘Til that glorious announcement: “Teachers: Now you can go!”
We sprang to our sleighs, hoping each would then start,
As if driving race cars, soon they all would depart!
But I heard them exclaim, as their sleds disappeared,
“Happy Holidays to All, and a Happy New Year!”

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Let It Snow on Google

Here’s a fun little trick:

  • Open your Web browser.
    • (So far I know this works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari)
  • Type “Let it snow” in the search box (not case-sensitive
  • Snow will begin to fall and your screen will fog up
  • Use your mouse as an “ice scraper” to clear away the snow, or click the “Defrost” button. Snowflakes will continue to fall but the fog goes away.


What Are Cookies and What Do They Do?

Ever wonder why sometimes Web sites know your username, password, or other information automatically while others don’t? Wonder why you and a friend sometimes get completely different results when searching for the exact same terms?  Sit back, have another cookie, and enjoy this video explanation from Explania.

How can cookies make your surfing experience convenient? - Explania

Thanks to @RMByrne for this tip on Free Tech for Teachers

OTUS News Match-O-Matic, from ABC News

The Match-O-Matic from ABC News’ OTUS (“Of the United States”) News Web site is an interesting way to gauge how students’ personal views align with the current Presidential candidates’ political platforms. By clicking on answers to some of the major questions now raging through the headlines, the Match-O-Matic delivers the top 3 candidates who most closely match the user’s answers. The Match-O-Matic also breaks down responses question-by-question showing which candidate each submitted answer aligns with. Conceivably, a user could agree with Barack Obama on one issue, Michelle Bachman on a second, and Newt Gingrich on a third.


In The Classroom:

This would be an interesting way to start a discussion or classroom debate about today’s hot-button political issues. Students could move through the questions individually, print out their results, and be grouped by candidate. Since overall opinions on the many issues may differ within a single group, “mini-debates” could erupt as each group clarifies its overall position before the full-class debate occurs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is iPad3 Worth Waiting For? from Yahoo News

Recent talk surrounding the next generation of student computing devices has speculated on the next generation of tablets, a market dominated by the venerable iPad.
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Image clipped from video at
Watch this video from Yahoo! about what’s on the horizon for the next iPad.
Well, I don’t know what the big whoop might be about all this – it’s really nothing new or unanticipated.  Among the rumors that the Yahoo! article mentioned as LIKELY IMPROVEMENTS to the next iPad:
  • High-Res display – Can you say, “iPadHD”???
  • Thinner – Can you say “And More Expensive” too???
    • This article, however, suggests that it HD display will require the next iPad to be thicker, though. So who really knows?
  • Faster – That’s a no-brainer.
  • Pretty Colors – Rumors indicate the aluminum shell may be replaced by carbon fiber, which is lighter, stronger, and can also accept colors & visual textures. Perhaps schools will be able to brand every iPad3 with a school logo, etc., or “If found drop in any mailbox… but don’t sell it or keep it as your own.”
  • Better camera – perhaps with a flash. Not a big selling point for schools, IMHO. 
What’s NOT LIKELY, according to the Yahoo! article and video:
  • New OS??? – could make the iPad less of a toy and more of a laptop-replacement device. Hmmm… that’d be nice… we’ll see…
  • Flash – iPad and Adobe Flash simply do not play well together. And apparently will not in the future. Period.
  • USB port/SD Card slot – iPaddlers will still have to rely on cloud storage services to transfer files to and from the iPad.
  • iPad Lite – The jury is still out on a 7-inch device between the size (and cost) of an iPhone & an iPad. We’ll see how this changes as iPad’s virtual feet are held to the (Kindle) Fire.
What this means for schools, in my humble opinion:
  • Pros: A new OS that might allow more robust creation of documents and content would be a welcomed improvement. A new model could cause a “fire sale” or “clearance blowout” of previous iPad models, but if the prices for iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 4S are an indicator then it won’t make a whole lot of difference.
  • Cons: A new model will only be more expensive and therefore harder for schools to put into the hands of kids. What this tells me is that Apple is feeling some competition and trying to make tweaks to its bread-and-butter to retain its market-share.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

The following question was posed to me recently:

“Can you explain Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to me?” where to start... ???

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Social media has become so pervasive throughout our lifestyles that we  – or in this case, I – don’t often stop to think about the components that make these tools similar and different

Only after stumbling through several answers to some really good questions did I find the following:

Social Media (i.e.: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and like a bajillion other similar services)



YouTube 101 (series of how-to videos):

And, on a related note, YouTube just posted this video about YouTube for Schools:

So How Did You Actually Answer The Question?
  1. All are considered "Social Media," allowing users to create and share rich content.
  2. All have an element of adding one's own comments and opinions to be shared and re-shared. This can be tricky for classrooms, but there are ways to protect kids' anonymity & emotions so each tool can be used for safe and legitimate classroom purposes.
  3. All allow varying degrees of privacy and security, which require the administrator of the social media site - in schools that's usually a classroom teacher - to oversee what is/is not visible and who can/cannot participate.
  4. There are private versions of the sites above (for example, SchoolTube allows private video sharing for schools, Ning Edmodo offer private social networking tools, etc.) that schools & districts might consider. There are literally thousands of social media sites available for individuals and schools to use. Some are free; some charge annual fees. Generally, the more secure you want to be, the more you'll have to pay.
  5. Schools and Districts should, in my humble opinion, develop & have approved social media policies on-file before beginning such endeavors. Examine your school's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for details and decide if it needs updating. If it hasn't been updated in the last 5 years, it probably needs an upgrade to include language about social media tools.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What Adults Can Learn From Kids

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Adora Svitak is a 13 year-old prodigy who is a published author and nationally-reognized speaker. Her message, below, is that "Learning should be reciprocal," and, as she demonstrates, kids are capable of amazing and inspiring things when they are supported by adults and allowed to explore in their own ways instead of learning the way previous generations learned.

As she says, kids "can grow up to blow you away."

Watch... Listen... Learn... Be blown away...

From Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ELL Ideas in December SMART EdCompass

The December issue of SMART’s EdCompass Magazine focuses primarily on the use of SMART Boards and associated technologies to help English Language Learners (ELL). Specifically, this month’s issue includes:
  • Ideas to help non-English speakers acquire essential language skills supported by SMART software and hardware.
  • Case studies describing how schools actually use SMART technologies to help ELL students.
  • Links to products & webinars specifically targeting ELL student needs.
However, as always there are other articles to help any SMART Board user utilize classroom software & hardware resources more fully. For example, in this issue you’ll also find articles on:
  • Using the My Content folder in SMART Notebook to store frequently-used pages so you don’t have to constantly re-create things pages or objects.
  • How to download pre-made SMART Notebook lessons that you can customize for your own classroom from the SmART Exchange Web site.
  • How to download SMART Response questions sets from the SMART Exchange Web site.
  • How to download new Gallery Collections for specific subject areas through the SMART Exchange Web site.
  • Math & Literacy support using a SMART Board and SMART Response (Senteo) clickers.
  • How SMART is helping prepare students and their teachers for Common Core State Standards. 
Check out the December issue of SMART’s EdCompass magazine today!
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Online Learning, Personalized

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“Grading the Digital School: Online Learning, Personalized,” is a great article from The New York Times, on the work of Salman Khan and the folks at Khan Academy.  The video below gives more details, too. It’s a great insight into the concept of “The Flipped Classroom.”

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Have You Cleaned Your Filter This Week?

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Using all these gadget-y things in the classroom is fun and it helps kids learn, but ed tech also requires some basic standard maintenance, too.

Please help prolong the life of the projectors associated with SMART Boards by cleaning the projector frequently and regularly. Once each week is a good rule of thumb.

Within the District, I send a weekly email update every Tuesday. When that message shows up in your inbox, consider that your reminder to clean out the filter on the projector. 

Here's how to clean the filter each week:
  1. Turn the projector off. Unplugging it wouldn't hurt, either.
  2. Stand on a step-stool or ladder. Avoid standing on a chair or desk, etc. Ask your custodian for assistance as needed.
  3. Locate the filter. As you are looking into the big fish-eye lens, you'll see a small black plastic part just to the side. That's the filter. (It's circled in red in the image above.
  4. Remove the Filter. Grab the black plastic filter with your thumb and index finger and pull it straight out toward the SMART Board.
  5. Gently shake or blow the dust off the filter. You might want to do that over a trash can.
  6. Reinsert the filter. It only fits one way - the same way you took it out. Don't force it.  You can wash it off, too, but don't scrub it... If the foam material is torn, the filter is useless.
  7. Examine  the projector for dust buildup. If you see a lot of dust & debris built up, especially around the cooling vents, gently brush it away from the projector (never in towards it).
NEVER RUN THE PROJECTOR WITHOUT A CLEAN FILTER PROPERLY INSTALLED! You wouldn't run your car's engine without an oil filter, would you? Let's hope not.

NEVER USE COMPRESSED OR "CANNED" AIR TO CLEAN THE SURFACE OR COOLING VENTS OF THE PROJECTOR! This will only force surface dirt & other crud DEEPER into the projector. And that's not good.

If you notice a lot of dirt built up in and around the cooling vents, if the image seems to be getting dimmer, or if your projector starts "making noise," it probably needs professional attention. Submit a Tech Help Request from your classroom computer... quickly...  to have someone from the Tech Department drop by and check it over for you.

And remember, each week when you get my Tech & PD Update, ask yourself...
"Did I clean my filter this week?"

Top 100 Web Sites of 2011


Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero has published an extensive list of educational resources and just-plain-fun sites. Take a look as your busy schedules allow – you’re sure to find something useful!

Hey! People Are Trying to Tweet Over Here…

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…and it’s about time… Thanks to @JMGubbins and the recent Illinois Education and Technology Conference, I’ve finally gotten off my duff and started using Twitter.

Follow me, if you wish, here: @205mjacobson

Visit @JMGubbins at Zenodotus

Make a Blog or a Web Site - Free!

Want to communicate more with students & parents? Kids asking you to “tech it up a notch?” Try making a blog or Web site – It’s super easy!


Clicking the link or image above will take you to a Web site I use to teach a class for educators on blogging. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you can use a blog like this to create and maintain your own classroom web site in the same way! Generally you can have up to 10 (or more) “static” or unchanging pages, along with a blog page, so… 

  1. Outline your class with up to 10 general units or topics. Have a 9- or 18-week class? Then outline it with 1- or 2-week chunks, with a Course Syllabus, Outline, or About Your Teacher page.
  2. Create up to 10 static pages and load each page up with text & content for each unit, topic, or time period. The “Posts/Pages” and “Images/Videos” steps in the class web site will help you learn how to do this. (You don’t have to fill up all 10 pages – do what fits best to your class needs & teaching style.)
  3. Help kids stay on-track by creating a post for each unit, topic, or time period that explains the tasks you will be asking students to complete and the timeline for each stage of your course or unit. Make sure your post includes a link to the static page that covers the unit or time period. (Don’t worry – All this is explained in the “Posts/Pages” step.)

Here’s the only tricky part: A blog generally places your most recent post at the top of the page, with the older stuff pushed to the bottom. If you want to publish things for the whole year/term chronologically from top-to-bottom, you’ll need to post in reverse-order. This will allow the last item you cover in the term to be pushed to the very bottom of your home page and the first item you cover will remain at the top of the blog page, etc.

Here are 2 easy ways around the tricky part: 

Type out all your posts and save them in draft form. Then schedule your posts to magically appear at a date & time that you choose.  So, once everything is typed out, you then schedule the posts to appear in the order you wish.

Or, if you like kids to say with you and not work too far ahead, schedule your posts to appear at some unreasonable hour of the morning the day you start into the unit, topic, or time period. Your students will be impressed that you appear to be working on preparing their class at 3 AM the day they arrive in your class! So while they are marveling at your dedication, only you will know that you were actually sleeping like a baby at the time! (Don’t worry – How to pull off these tricks is also explained in the “Posts/Pages” step.)

I want to learn how! Each year I offer teachers in our District several opportunities to attend classes and learn new tech skills. Blogging With and For Your Students is one of our frequent offerings. Click the image to link to the class! You can wander through it at your own leisurely pace.

I highly recommend Blogger, EduBlogs, and Weebly for free blog & Web site hosting and design tools. Blogger and EduBlogs are blogging engines. Weebly focuses more on Web sites that include a blog page and allows online storage of documents that you can then embed into pages so students can access assignments, etc., from a lab or home computer. For the class, I use Blogger, simply because it is more widely recognized and many already have Google accounts when they arrive in class. However, I’ve used all three of the above before and, like our students, each is excellent in its own unique way.

Those who have taken the class have told me they never realized how simple it would be to create a blog or a Web site of their very own. The class is about an hour long and is open to any District #205 or KWSED teacher. Register with your school email here! (Out of District and non-school emails will be considered spam and will be ignored & deleted.)

DISCLAIMER: Helping teachers teach is my mission, my job, and one of my joys in life. I don’t get paid extra to teach these classes – You’ll find no ads on the class site. I’m not getting paid a penny for recommending any of the sites mentioned above or anywhere else on this site. These are all free resources intended to help you help kids. ‘Nuff Said.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Zenodotus - Intensely Tech

Last month I attended the Illinois Ed Tech Conference in Springfield, Illinois. While there I attended a session by James Gubbins, who has enlightened me on several new classroom tech resources. I encourage all readers to surf over to his blog, Zenodotus!

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Over the weekend this blog reached the 10,000 page views threshold! Wow! Many thanks to all who have visited! I hope you have enjoyed reading and learned something new along the way. I'll keep doing my best to post interesting and useful new resources to help your classroom! Thanks again! - Matt

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

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