Thursday, October 4, 2018

"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

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After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illinois Assessments of Readiness. In their August 28 webinar & a subsequent email update, ISBE's Assessment Division announced that they will use PARCC question content to deliver a computer-adaptive annual assessment through Data Recognition Corporation (DRC). DRC is currently used in Illinois to deliver the ACCESS testing for English Language Learners. DRC also delivers statewide assessments in Louisiana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Nevada. 
ISBE reports that the next round of Illinois testing will remain very similar to the assessments we have delivered at Grades 3-8 for the past several school years. DRC will use PARCC question content, at least initially, but will begin the transition to a more computer-adaptive platform over the next 3-4 years. Their vision is to deliver more relevant and timely results of machine-scored items within a week of the close of the testing window, and all results within a month of that date. 
Most of this information comes from the bi-weekly Assessment Webinars, and from this letter posted on the ISBE website. 
The next State Assessment Webinar is scheduled for 10-11:30 on Friday, October 12.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Switch to the New GMail

If you haven't already, you should really give the New GMail interface a try! It's super-easy to switch (see below) and once you do you'll have access to lots of new functionality.


  • Open Gmail 
  • Click the Gear icon (upper right) 
  • Click "Try the new Galesburg Community Unit School District #205 Mail"

And that's it! Once the browser reloads, you'll have access to tons of new tools, including the new right-hand sidebar. This contains three tools that you'll soon find invaluable: Calendar, Keep, and Tasks. This same sidebar will soon be rolling out to Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings over the next 2 weeks. Learn how to use these products side-by-side HERE

These tools will be a great help for students: 
  • Take notes in Keep and insert them into a Doc
  • Check their Calendar to schedule a study session without leaving GMail 
  • Make a collaborative To-Do List for a project and check off items from Docs, Sheets, or Slides
  • ...the possibilities are really almost endless...!  

Friday, August 17, 2018

How to Submit a Tech Help Request in District 205

If you need assistance with your computer, telephone, SMART board or Promethean panel setup, etc., please submit a Tech Help Request from a computer attached to our network at school. 

Here's how: 

Step 1: 

Step 2: 


  • Point to For Staff and select Tech Help Desk 
  • Click the Login button 
  • Click Choose One and then Create New Case  
  • Type a One Line Description 
  • Select the Problem Type 
  • Select the Building Name 
  • Type your Room Number or describe the location 
  • Type in the details of your request 
  • Click Submit

How To Reset Your District 205 Password

It is a very good idea for all staff to change their Galesburg 205 passwords on a frequent and regular basis. Here's how:  


  • Point to For Staff  & choose Password ChangeTool  
  • In the first field, type ghs\YourUsername 
    • use the backslash \ on the key that is found between the Enter & backspace keys on most keyboards 
    • your username is not case sensitive, and you do NOT need to include "" after it
  • Type your current password
  • Type your new password
  • Confirm your new password
  • Click Submit 

This will change your computer login password, your Google password, and your Skyward password. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Hapara Use in CUSD205

This post is intended for teachers in our school district, but other Hapara users may find the links in this post helpful, too.

My big project today is setting up the daily sync between our student data system (Skyward) and Hapara. For teachers, our use of Hapara (in Grades 6-12) includes three modules: Dashboard, Highlights, and Workspace.

Welcome Hapara Teachers!





Self-Paced Hapara Workspaces Training Module
Hapara Workspaces Solutions Guide 
PRINTABLE Hapara Workspaces Cheat Sheet 

See the Hapara Solutions Guides to get started if you're new to Hapara, or to refresh your memory if you are a returning user

See Hapara's Customer First site with live and on-demand training resources and webinars to guide appropriate classroom use. 


This year, teachers in District 205 will have the ability to: 

Create classes manually. 

This year you can make a custom group if you wish. This will not be affected by the daily synchronization - you will have to add/remove students or delete the class manually. 

Add students manually. 

This year, if you don't want to wait for the front office to enter the student in Skyward and then wait until the next day for the sync to occur, you can enter a student by hand. This, too, will not be affected by the daily sync. When the sync adds the student's official record, you will be responsible for deleting the "student" you created. 


This may be kind of huge for us! This year you will also be able to synchronize the Google Classroom courses you create and use Hapara Highlights and Workspaces with the Classroom group. 
Here's how:
Introducing Google Classroom Sync for Hapara (Teacher Version) from Hapara Team on Vimeo.

Read more about Classroom/Hapara Sync & how to use it on the Hapara Support page


Pobody's Nerfect

The data sync will be set to occur daily after 4pm to catch each day's new additions & changes. THERE WILL BE A TROUBLESHOOTING PERIOD where Hapara courses and rosters may not look exactly the way you'd like, especially as student registration and assignment to courses, changes to teacher course assignments, etc., all settles out. Please try to be patient - most of these issues tend to sort themselves out during the first week or two as the changes in Skyward begin to stabilize. If kids & classes don't seem to "look" the way you'd like, try to add classes or students, or sync things with your Google Classroom, as noted above.


Teachers will soon see a number of folders created in Google Drive for the classes you teach.  This is normal, and you can use these folders to store & share any course materials you'd like. If you don't want to see or use these, you can just create a folder called "Hapara" and move all of those into there if you prefer a different organizational style. Just don't delete the folders, please.

Create Drive Folder (& nest it within other folders) from @JakeMillerTech


Teachers will also see a number of new Calendars appearing in Google Calendar. You are more than welcome to use these to help students stay organized throughout the school year, because they will see the same Calendars as well. Users can hide calendars from view by clicking the Gear Icon in Calendar, pointing to the calendar and clicking the Eye Icon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Access or Create Your IEIN (Illinois Teachers)

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Illinois Educators are required to enter their Illinois Educator Identification Number (IEIN) when signing into and evaluating professional development activities.

To find your IEIN, you'll need to either access or create your account in the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS)

Once you have your IEIN, there are a few tricks you can use to keep it handy so you can access it easily when needed.
  • I've seen several educators simply take a screenshot or snap a picture of the screen showing the IEIN and keep that on their phone or other personal portable device. 
  • Another way would be to copy it and paste it into a Google Document, and make the font large and bold. Next, you can save that into the top level of Drive or into a "My PD" folder, etc. If you use the Grid View in Google Drive, you will be able to see the number without even opening the file.
  • iOS users can copy/paste it into the Notes app to keep it handy (Thanks to Gyuchan Steele for this reminder)
  • Google Keep is an app that works in Chrome and is also available to iOS and Android users. Using Google Keep, you can copy/paste the number onto a note and keep it at your fingertips no matter what device you use! 
... or I guess you could just write it down... LOL! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Using Google Classroom for Staff Communications

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Earlier today I was asked by an administrator:
"Is there a way to use Google Classroom for staff communications?"
My answer: "yes, Yes, YES!!!"

Google Classroom is a GREAT tool to create a private school environment to share documents, ideas, and announcements with staff!

UPDATE: Google Classroom will be updating this summer. I'm told that if you create a Google Classroom environment prior to the rollout of the update you'll have to use the old version all year long. However, you can sign up to be a beta tester and gain early access to the new features. It takes about a week for approval, but it's worth it! The beta-test program has ended.

Ideas for using Classroom with staff

Here are some ideas you might consider:

  1. Enrolling Staff: Set up a Google Classroom environment and either enter all of the names of your staff, or email them the class code to self-enroll
    1. Create separate Classroom "classes" for each grade level, team or department, then post items to multiple "classes" ...OR... 
    2. Create a single Classroom "class" for the school, and post items to specific "students" if needed
  2. Add Assistants as Co-Teachers so they can post, too. This is a nice way to demonstrate shared leadership in larger schools. 
  3. Remember that each time you create a Classroom environment you also create 
    1. a shared Google Drive folder that holds all documents you post, 
    2. a shared Google Calendar that appears for all of your "students"
    3. an email every time you post something to the Stream
    4. a backchannel that allows your "students" to post comments and reply to others who comment
    5. an easy way to email staff from the Students page
  4. Use the About page to post documents that teachers will need to refer to all year long (Think permission slips, handbooks, etc.)
    1. UPDATE: The About page changed with the summer update (after this post was originally published). HOWEVER, we can now post RESOURCES related to any TOPIC on the Classwork page! This would be a great place for school forms, documents, etc.! 
  5. Use an Announcement to post weekly staff bulletins as a Google Doc - or even a YouTube video!  
    1. Staff will then receive an email with a link each time you post
    2. You can schedule the announcement to appear at a regular time, and just update the Google Doc as needed throughout the week
  6. Use an Assignment to distribute materials that staff must address
    1. This is a great way to flip your staff meetings! 
    2. You can instruct staff to "Turn In" an assignment by a due date you set as evidence of having viewed/read material prior to a meeting
  7. Use the Create Question feature to get quick feedback from staff
  8. Create different Topics for posts to allow for quick access to various posts, like...
    1. Weekly Bulletin
    2. Policy/Procedure
    3. Staff Meeting
    4. School Improvement Plan
    5. Climate & Culture
    6. ... etc... each school is different, so make topics to reflect your needs!


The amazing Alice Keeler has an extensive list of Google Classroom ideas, and has written a book that I highly recommend: 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom.

Here's a great blog post entitled "Meet Your Staff Where They Are: Streamlining with Google Classroom" that looks at some other aspects of this idea.

Here's a great YouTube Video showing how a school principal in Kentucky implemented the concept. (screencast starts at about the 19 min 30 sec point)

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Shift-Z is one of my favorite keyboard Shortcuts!

Shift-Z allows you to save almost any file into multiple folders in Google Drive.  Check out the video walkthrough, below.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More Details On Google Classroom Updates

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Recently I blogged about upcoming changes to Google Classroom in August.

A Deeper Dive

John Sowash, author of The Chromebook Classroom and blogger at The Electric Educator,has posted a YouTube video and blog post that goes into greater detail about these upcoming changes. Using screenshots and narration, this video takes a deeper dive into the new features and how each could impact the way you use Google Classroom with your instructional activities.

Just a quick note

The previous video noted that, when the updates do apply, they will not change the way existing Classroom environments look or behave. So, if you want to utilize the new features, wait to create & set up your Google Classroom sites until Google rolls out the update.


Video not displaying correctly? Watch on YouTube

See the Official Google Announcement

Monday, July 16, 2018

Create Your Google Classroom Strategy with John Sowash

Google Classroom clip
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Google Classroom is a great tool to help teachers organize & manage digitally-enhanced classrooms. John Sowash, blogger at The Electric Educator and author of The Chromebook Classroom, offers some great tips for you to consider when organizing your online learning environment.
  • Create a new class every year or semester when your roster changes
  • Create a separate section for each period 
  • Create a unique environment for each subject (elementary) OR use topics to organize them
  • Break up year-long courses into semesters
  • Avoid reusing courses - you can reuse content from old, archived courses
  • Include grade, year, period, etc., in course title to help organize your Drive folders 
One item I learned from this: If you don't yet have access to the new Google Classroom tools, wait until you do or your class will have to go through the whole semester using the old Classroom interface, and you'll miss out on a lot of the new features. I would encourage you to follow John's advice and wait until these new features become more widely available.
Watch & listen to all of John's tips in the video below: 

Video not displaying correctly? Watch on YouTube at 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

New Google Sites Conversion Tool

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The New Google Sites is supremely easy to use to create your own classroom website. But what if you already have a website using the older Google Sites tools? These will be deprecated later this year, but in the meantime, it is super easy to convert your old Google Sites to a New Google Sites! Just check out the video tutorial below from Richard Byrne of Free Tech For Teachers

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Big Changes for Google Classroom

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LOTS of changes are coming that will make Google Classroom even more helpful for managing your tech-enabled classroom! Google is moving away from just document management and is starting to look even more like a full-on Learning Management System.
  • Stream page: Expand/Collapse items to see more assignments, announcements, etc.
  • Classwork page: Re-order items more easily and group into topics or units
  • People page: View & edit all Teachers/Co-Teachers, Students, and Parents/Guardians on a single page
  • Settings: Settings have all been consolidated on a single page (as it should be)
  • CREATE LOCKED QUIZZES! Finally, teachers can create a quiz/assignment directly in classroom and lock down the browser so students can't Google your answers in another tab!

These are supposed to become available to us before school starts. Will let you know as soon as these are enabled for us!

Read more: Upcoming Changes to Google Classroom - Google Support

Friday, July 13, 2018

Suicide: The Ripple Effect

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Bridgeway is hosting a special screening of the new inspirational documentary Suicide:The Ripple Effect. This event is scheduled for Tuesday August 14, 2018 at 6:30PM at the Orpheum Theatre.

Tickets can be purchased at Bridgeway in Galesburg or at the Orpheum Theatre for $5. All proceeds from this event will directly benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk on September 15, 2018.

The film chronicles the story of Kevin Hines, who at age 19 attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Since then Kevin has been on a mission to use his story to help others find recovery and stay alive, and has become the world’s most prominent suicide prevention speaker and advocate. The film also features some of the world’s leading suicide prevention experts and shines light on people who are using personal experiences with suicide to help others find the hope they need to stay alive.

Thanks go out to Sarah Bates for sharing this information with us.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mandated PD & EdLeaders Network

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EdLeaders Network is up and running! You can log in at any time to get a head start toward satisfying our Mandated PD requirements. New staff are being loaded now and should be ready to go within a week or so.

Last year we had a lot of catching up to do. This year we are largely in-compliance, so the load should be significantly less for each of us to complete - around 6 or 7 instead of all 14 last year!

I have submitted a proposal for the scope and sequence of this to school and district administrators. I'll be happy to share the entire 2-year plan with you as soon as it is approved.

Please Note: There are programs of courses in EdLeaders Network called "IL Annual Mandated Training," and "IL Biannual Mandated Training." These contain more courses than you actually need to complete, according to ROE 33's listing. Make sure that you do the courses marked "2018-2019" though!

Getting Started with ELN 

ELN Learner Tutorial 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Learn Promethean Videos

Image clipped from YouTube
Recently our District began adopting Promethean interactive display panels. As these began to appear more frequently throughout our schools, many teachers asked where they could find just-in-time resources to help them get used to this new hardware and incorporate it into classroom activities.

This summer, Promethean has published several series of brief videos - around a minute long, more or less - explaining how to use various components and features of their products. These will be extremely helpful for those who are just getting started with this technology, and a nice reminder for those who are already using it but need a little refresher after the summertime. 

To find the videos, just visit YouTube and search for the Promethean Video channel. There are 5 main playlists to visit: 
These links are also posted in the "How Do I" section of my website.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

New Podcast & Blog Format

Hi Everyone! Welcome back!

Audio: S2E1Intro
Video: S2E1Intro

I am back from some time away to catch up on some projects, spending time with family, and just resting and relaxing. Now I'm ready to dive back into blogging & podcasting fpr you with a new podcast format and new blogging techniques.

The new podcast format will be a once-a-week format, sharing some interesting facts, a couple of professional learning tips to help you improve your practice and a couple of technology tool tips to help help you integrate technology into your instructional practices more effectively. I'll also include a look ahead at upcoming events that might interest educators as well.

On the blogging front, I'll be adding short tips in the form of screencasts published to YouTube and embedded into individual blog posts. I'll also post the entire podcast episode each week so you can listen along, too.

Many thanks for returning listeners and readers, and a hearty welcome to anyone new to my podcast and blog. I'll do my best to find something to interest you each week!


Friday, May 11, 2018

Summer Podcasting Schedule

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Summertime is looming close here in western Illinois, and Galesburg Schools are approaching the end of our school year. During the summer months we all need an opportunity to rest and regenerate a bit, so I will be podcasting only once a week.

Download this episode, or listen in the podcatcher of your choice shown in the sidebar.

During that time, while many are enjoying some well-deserved recreation, I will be re-creating a lot of the things I do to support the great things that are happening in classrooms here in Galesburg. One of those things will be this podcast experiment. As much as I enjoy podcasting, I find that daily podcasting is quite a challenge to manage while performing my other duties to help teachers constantly improve. I may decide to continue the once-a-week podcasting and adjust my content and show format just a bit. Perhaps instead of a daily 3-5 minute show, I’ll look at a longer show with a different format.

One of the things I’d like to do is interview local teachers who are reinventing their classroom practices, using technology or other tools and techniques. So, if you or a teacher you know is doing some amazing or innovative work, send me an email - or, better yet, download the Anchor app and use it to record your idea, and I’ll include it in an upcoming episode!

Thanks for listening, and I’ll chat more with you next week.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

End of Year Tech Tips, part 4

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and finally, part 4 of this series... 

Download this episode, or listen in the podcatcher of your choice, shown in the sidebar.


Document Cameras

  • Unplug the document camera from the wall outlet or power strip.
  • AverVision Doc Cams: Bend the flexible arm “like a rainbow,” then insert the camera head into the space provided in the base of the document camera.
  • Store the camera on a flat surface, preferably inside a drawer, cabinet, or cart if available.

Printers, Scanners, etc.

  • Make sure the device is turned off. The power switch should be in the “OFF” or “O” Position.
  • Unplug the power cord from the wall outlet or power strip.
  • Covers are nice, but are not required. Never cover a device that is still plugged into the wall.


  • Powered speakers should be unplugged from the wall outlet or power strip.
  • If you have placed any speakers overhead (above the SMART Board, near a wall-mounted projector, etc.), remove them and store them with/near your computer workstation, etc.

Personal Technology Property

  • Any personally-owned technology equipment, like flash drives, speakers, cameras, etc., should be removed for the summer.

End of Year Tech Tips, part 3

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Part 3 of this series... 

Download this episode, or listen with the podcatcher of your choice shown in the sidebar.


SMART Boards

  • If it is a wireless board, unplug it from the wall outlet.
  • If you choose to clean your SMART Board:
  • Use spray-on glass cleaner, whiteboard cleaner, etc. (The liquid that custodians use to clean whiteboards works very well.)
  • NEVER use anything abrasive (Soft Scrub, Comet, etc.)
  • NEVER use anything with bleach-like qualities (Clorox or Lysol wipes/liquids with bleach or “bleach alternatives,” etc.)
  • ALWAYS spray onto a soft cloth first, then wipe the surface of the SMART Board.
  • NEVER spray cleaning products directly onto the SMART Board’s surface!
  • NEVER-EVER spray water or cleaning products onto the pen tray or into the pen or eraser “wells.”
  • NEVER SCRUB the surface of the SMART Board. This will leave distracting “shiny spots” that can never be repaired.

Promethean Boards & Flat Panel Displays

  • If you choose to clean a Promethean Board, remember that it is covered with really tough glass, so in most cases just a spritz or two of some mild glass/window cleaner onto a soft cloth will do the trick. Avoid spraying cleaners directly onto the board, as overspray and runoff can damage the device. A microfiber cloth is best to dry it off.  
  • If you choose to clean some other large flat-panel display, gently run your fingertips across the screen first. 
  • If it feels like glass, see the instructions for Promethean boards, above. 
  • If it feels like a computer monitor screen, follow the computer monitor cleaning instructions under the Computers & Monitors section above.   


  • If your projector is mounted to the wall or ceiling, always use a ladder or step-stool or ask a custodian for assistance.
  • NEVER stand on chairs, tables, etc., to reach something overhead
  • Unplug the projector from the wall outlet or power strip. (Please note: In a few applications, this outlet may have been installed above the SMART Board.)
  • Remove and clean the filter by blowing the dirt & dust-bunnies off of it. Reinsert the filter the way you found it. 
  • Never leave the filter out of the projector! 
  • DO NOT USE COMPRESSED OR “CANNED” AIR TO CLEAN THE PROJECTOR – this forces crud deeper into the machine.
  • Install the lens cap (if available) or slide the shutter closed, depending on the device.
  • Place portable projectors inside the carrying case (if provided) and zip or Velcro the flap closed.
  • OPTIONAL: After you have ensured that the power has been disconnected from the projector, a simple dust cover may be applied by placing a trash can liner around the projector and securing it to the mounting arm with a single piece of masking tape.

End of Year Tech Tips, part 2

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Part 2 of this series... 

Download this episode or listen on the podcatcher of your choice shown in the sidebar.

Mobile Labs & Chromebook Carts 

  • Make sure every laptop or Chromebook is powered off completely. No lights should be visible if it is completely off. 
  • Place each device in the numbered slot inside the cart.
  • Plug the appropriate charging cable into each device. This will make it easier to recharge the devices at the beginning of the next school year.
  • Unplug the cart’s charging cable(s) from the wall outlet(s) and wrap loosely around the cart’s handle(s) or coil & lay on top of the cart.
  • Make sure the cart is locked securely. 
  • Store the key/combination per your building principal’s instructions.
  • Store the cart per your building principal’s instructions.
  • If your school’s facilities allow, storage in an air-conditioned environment can be helpful. Humidity is the enemy of most electronic devices.

Calculators, Senteo Clickers, Cameras, Web Cams, etc.

  • Remove batteries (if they have them) 
  • If possible, arrange for storage in an air-conditioned environment.
  • If these were borrowed at some point, please return to Matt Jacobson or your building’s Library & Information Specialist for storage. 

Desktop Computers, Monitors, etc.

  • Shut everything down completely. (If you see a light “inside” the power button on the computer or monitor, you haven’t shut it down all the way yet.)
  • Lombard Middle School: WITcon will occur in your building this summer. Leave your computers, monitors, & SMART Boards connected and plugged in, please.
  • Unless instructed otherwise by the Technology Department, unplug  the computer, monitor, and any peripheral devices (like printers, speakers, cameras, etc.)  from the wall outlets. 
  • If computers/peripherals are plugged into a power strip, simply unplug the power strip from the wall.
  • Unless instructed differently, you may leave the rest of the cables and cords attached, including the keyboard & mouse, etc.
  • Move things away from your computer & monitor. If maintenance is required over the summer, this will help the techs get their jobs done more quickly.
  • TIP: Many cables/connections are already color-coded to match up with the proper port on the back of the computer. If you choose to disconnect cables (keyboards, printers, monitors, etc.) that are not already color-coded, write a label for each cable with masking tape and attach it to the cable – also put a similar label on the device from which it was removed. This will speed up the reconnection process when you return after summer!
  • Dust covers, etc., are nice but are not required. However, NEVER COVER A DEVICE THAT IS STILL PLUGGED INTO A WALL OUTLET or a power strip that is still plugged into a wall outlet – even if you think the power strip or device is switched off!

Computer Labs

  • Turn all machines OFF, but leave them all plugged-in to allow for updates & maintenance.


If you choose to clean the monitor on your desktop, UNPLUG it first, then… 

  • Dust it off gently. Much of what you see is probably surface dust.
  • For more persistent grunge, hold a soft, slightly damp cloth gently on the offending crud & let the moisture do the work. Then gently wipe away any remaining moisture with a soft dry cloth.  
  • If that doesn’t get it all, repeat but dampen the cloth with a few drops of warm water. 
  • Still need more help? Spray a little glass/window cleaner onto a cloth & repeat. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

End of Year Tech Procedures, Part 1

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This week I'll cover a few tips for closing down the school year. Some tips will be specific to our school district, but most are just good practice.

Today's Topics: 

  • Google Takeout
  • Google Backup & Sync
  • Summer PC Cleaning
  • FLIP Cams & Webcams
  • School-issued Portable Devices


  • Google Takeout: 
  • Backup & Sync: 
  • Using Backup & Sync:

Script Episode 32

Download your files with Google Takeout

Google Takeout allows you to access and download your Google data—whether to import it to another service/location or just to create your own copy. Follow the instructions at to download all your files, etc., and save them onto a flash drive to take with you.

Please remember that, if you leave employment with District #205 for any reason, your District GMail & all Google Drive files will be deleted and lost forever shortly after your last school day with us. Please make this a priority.

Please share this information with graduating Seniors and students who might be leaving the school district as well.

Google Backup and Sync 

Google Backup  and Sync allows you to Backup and sync your data in real time and gives you access to your PC data remotely.  Default is Desktop, Documents and Pictures, I like to add Downloads, this is where most internet files go. Visit and then, under Backup and Sync, click the “Download” button.

Please remember that, if you leave employment with District #205 for any reason, your District GMail & all Google Drive files will be deleted and lost forever shortly after your last school day with us. Please make this a priority.

Summer PC Cleaning 

Technology Department Staff will be cleaning as many classroom PC workstations as possible inside and out this summer. Please clear a space around your PC. Remove any personal items that are on or near the PC case, keyboard/mouse, and any other peripherals connected to the PC. If your PC is “hidden” inside a desk or cabinet, please make sure the doors are unlocked and the PC is accessible.

FLIP Cameras and Webcams

If you borrowed a webcam or FLIP Camera(s), please return them before you check out for the summer, or call/email me and I’ll come over to pick it up.

...even if it’s from last year…   ...or the year before… 

Those were loans, not gifts.  You can borrow them again next year, I promise.

Portable Computing Devices (District-issued)

Any district-owned Windows PC laptop computer, iPad, cellular phone, etc., that was issued to you should be returned to your building principal for storage during the summer months. For Chromebooks purchased with building-level funds, please check with your principal about using these over the summer.

  • Principals: Check with Technology Director Rick Lawsha
  • Special Education staff should refer to directions provided by the Director regarding end-of-year procedures for the portable devices they have issued.
  • Make sure each laptop is shut down properly and completely. If you see any lights at all, it’s not shut down completely yet.
  • Unplug each laptop’s power cord from wall outlets or power strips.
  • Close each laptop’s lid completely.
  • If bags/carrying cases are available and will accommodate, place the laptop and its power cord, mouse, etc., inside & zip it closed. 
  • NOTE: Power cables DO NOT fit inside many Chromebook cases!
  • Check to see if your building principal has any further instructions about summer storage, batteries, etc.
  • Return any extra charging units to the Technology Department.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Don't Panic

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So, it happens in almost any classroom. Kids get distracted. Kids stumble across something that draws their attention away. Or maybe, who knows why, a kid might not be actually all that interested in the subject or the topic or the way it was being presented. Kids just get distracted.

Or sometimes you’ve planned the best lesson on the planet and the tech goes all wonky. For whatever the reason, something goes wrong and it messes with your lesson. It happens.

Download this episode, or listen using your favorite podcatcher from the services shown in the sidebar. Leave a rating or comment at

Now, in a digital classroom, we’d like to think that the technology can keep kids focused. There has to be an app for that, right? Sadly, no. There’s not always a technology solution for a human behavior. The Tech Department can’t block every possible distraction or click-bait ad, or game site, or whatever. Now, it’s okay to ask because sometimes there’s a new and dangerous - or at least dangerous to educational pursuits - site that kids learn about before the adults do. But just understand that sometimes the answer will have to be “no.” It’s nothing personal.

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So, when the inevitable distraction happens in a digital environment, how do we respond to it? First, don’t panic. It is going to happen. It’s not a reflection on you. Sometimes it’s not even the kids’ fault. Placing blame doesn’t really help anything, unless of course it happens repeatedly and purposefully. If we overreact to the situation, kids might be afraid of potential consequences. We need kids to be comfortable reporting issues without fear of retribution or blame. So try to stay calm, accept it, and assess the situation.

First of all, Tell kids that it is okay if they stumble into something accidentally. Tell them that, if they stick to the sites and activities that you have developed, they should be just fine. Tell them that you understand that accidents may happen, and that if something happens accidentally they’ll be  just fine. But, remind kids that you have a series of consequences in place that will be activated if they willfully go off course. You do have that list of expectations, incentives, and consequences that was discussed in Episode 29, right? Refer to that and reteach all three.

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Next, if the student has stumbled across something obscene or inappropriate, try to fight the urge to instinctively close the Chromebook lid.  In some cases, this action will log the students off and clear the browser history.  That will remove the evidence of any potential mischief. Instead, get a sheet of notebook paper or a notebook or magazine and simply cover the screen, then contact an administrator. Document the time and the student’s name. From time to time, lightly run a finger across the trackpad - don’t press hard enough to click on anything, just enough to keep the device from going to sleep.  If needed, find a colleague down the hall who can either get the administrator for you or who is willing to take possession of the device while you tend to your class activities. When appropriate, you or the colleague should document the student’s name and write down the entire URL, or at least as much of it as possible. the URL. Whatever you do, though, do not interact with it in any way. Let the administrator take it from there.

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If it is a student’s own device, that’s going to be a bit different. If a student is misusing a personal mobile device and you need to confiscate it, the best way to handle this situation is to have the student leave the device on and place it in a clear plastic bag, then notify an administrator. Document the behavior, the student’s name and the date & time on a piece of paper and place it in the bag. Leave the device powered on and place it on your desk and in plain sight of the students present. Leave the device powered on in case the administrator can respond before the device locks and goes to sleep. Under no circumstances should a teacher ever conduct a search of a student’s personal property. Why? Worst case scenario: if there are inappropriate images on that device and you stumble across one, you may have just viewed pornography while supervising students, and that is not good for your professional career.

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What happens when the tech you wanted to use with a lesson goes sideways? First of all, every good teacher makes a back-up plan. Always have either an alternate non-tech method of teaching the same content or have a back up lesson or extension activity to do instead.

When something does go wrong, take a few steps to document what is going on. Are there dialogue boxes or error messages on screen? Write them down. Is there a URL or web address? Remember to write it down. Document what you can see. If you have a cell phone and can take a picture of the screen that’s fine - but ONLY if it is NOT a secure testing situation like PARCC or something.

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The point is - panic is our worst enemy when it comes to tech-related issues. Have a non-tech backup ready for those times. If something inappropriate happens, document it and get help from an administrator. WHatever you do, though, just don’t panic.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Managing digital learning environments, part 2

image from
Today's discussion surrounds seating arrangements in digital classrooms. For ideas, read Classroom Management in the Digital Age by Heather Dowd & Patrick Green, available from Amazon at and The First Days of School, by Harry & Rosemary Wong, available from Amazon at

Listen or download this episode, or listen in your favorite podcatcher at one of the services show in the sidebar.

Today I'll be talking about how to arrange the physical space within your classroom. There are several simple strategies you can use to help facilitate student learning in your classroom

Simply rearranging the room’s seating configuration can help you monitor students’ digital behaviors. Moving the teacher desk to a place like the back of the classroom so you can see the students’ screens from your desk is the first and simplest step toward successful digital classroom. Your current classroom arrangement may require that you get more creative than that, of course. You may be limited by the cable connecting your computer to the projector or classroom display, for example. Can you simply use a Chromebook on a table at the back of the room when needed? It can be very simple to help facilitate and monitor students’ work on digital devices.

The point, however, is that monitoring student behavior while online can be very simple. Dowd and Green, in their book Classroom Management in the Digital Age, highlight the pros and cons of a number of different options for locating the teacher’s desk in a classroom. These options include teacher at the front, teacher at the back, teacher in the center, and so on. The one arrangement they say does not work is “Teacher at the Teacher Desk,” and I concur 100%. They say, starting on page 42,
“The ‘teacher at the teacher desk’ arrangement works great - when students are not present in the classroom. Teaching today is active and requires teachers get out from behind their desks and be engaged with the students. … Teaching requires teachers be active and mobile, and able to continuously monitor the communication and collaboration happening in the room. If the teacher is behind the desk, he is too far away from most students to observe, prod, redirect, ask questions, guide, prompt, encourage, or challenge students.”

Dowd and Green, like Wong and others, agree that students’ seats should always be assigned from Day 1 in the classroom. My experience shows this to be true as well. Let kids know that you are in complete control the moment they step through your doorway.

However, I would suggest you be thoughtful about placement of students into your classroom arrangement. I used to have my desks arranged in traditional rows and columns. However, I’m a huge fan of cooperative learning and heterogeneous grouping. So, I would identify student achievement levels and create groups of 4, with 1 high achiever, 2 average achievers, and 1 struggling student. I would then place these 4, for example, in Row 1 Seat 1 & 2 and Row 2 Seat 1 & 2. During whole group instruction or individual work time they would remain in these seats, but during cooperative group time they could simply twist their desks a quarter turn and they have instantly formed a heterogeneous team. Or Row 1 scoots across the aisle to Row 2 and we have pairs. I would change seating arrangements every 2 weeks so I would never hear students say, “do we have to stay in these groups all year long? “ They also practiced the “Ask 3 before me” mantra with their teammates simply by leaning across the aisle. It’s a little work, but it pays big dividends throughout the school year in terms of students’ soft skills and collaboration skills.

Thanks for listening today! Don’t forget to give me a review on Apple Podcasts, Pocketcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And feel free to download the Anchor app and give me some verbal feedback or suggest a topic that I can cover for you in a future episode.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

3 digital classroom debates

Image from
No two classrooms operate the same way, because kids and teachers are unique individuals. Today I'll offer my opinions on 3 debates I hear often around the staff rooms and lunch rooms of the schools I visit.

  • Screens Up/Down
  • Charging Devices
  • Device Docks
Of course, these are my opinions only, and may not reflect the policies of my employer or principals who have the authority to make such decisions in their own buildings. This is just one teacher's opinions on the subjects. 

Listen to or download Episode 29, or listen on your favorite podcatcher at right.


Welcome back! Today is a follow up to yesterday’s discussion about classroom expectations. Expectations within the digital classroom are not that different from those in a traditional classroom. A few things to think through, though, that you’ll often hear discussed in lounges and lunchrooms in any school you visit:  

Screens Up and Screens Down - Some activities will require students to interact with their devices, and some will not. Train your students to close the devices when you call Screens Down. Then say what you need to say, and when it’s time to get back to work, call Screens Up. The great thing about Chromebooks: they save work automatically, and they only take 8 seconds to power back up, so very little time is lost. The debate is: Will you have a signal, like a hand-clap or a call-and-respond, to get students’ attention, or will you expect students to just know that they should stop typing & surfing when you are talking? Training kids when it is okay to use the device and when it is not is essential to any successful digital classroom.

Charging Devices - Will kids be allowed to charge devices in class, or will they miss class to go get a loaner every time they forget? That depends on how you balance the importance of your class with the importance of student responsibility. I equate this with the analog debate around students who forget to bring a pencil to class - is it worth a detention, or do you just bypass the headache and keep a stash of pencils for kids to use? Regardless of which side of that debate you choose, what is the procedure for dealing with devices having insufficient charge to get through your class? Do kids know it? Have you rehearsed that procedure with them? 

Personal Device Docks - Some people allow the use of personal devices like smartphones in their classrooms; some do not. This is a topic of much debate around the staff rooms and lunch tables at schools, and both sides make valid points. In Illinois, students have the right to have the devices in the school, for the most part, but schools have the right to limit this with “off-and-away” policies. That means that kids can have them but they must be silenced or powered down and left in lockers or pockets or purses while students are in classrooms. In schools that allow them in classrooms, an effective policy is to “Dock ‘Em,” meaning students are to place them in the upper-right or upper-left corner of their desks or tables during class so teachers can clearly see that they are not being used as a distraction during class. On the other hand I also know of schools that use a “Cell Phone Motel,” which is just a box at the door where students are required to deposit their devices as they enter a “No Phone Zone” classroom. This makes me very sad. These are powerful devices and can be very valuable when used appropriately, but kids often need to be taught explicitly what “appropriate” is in classrooms. Taking a little time at the beginning of the semester to provide that training in etiquette can pay big dividends later in school and in life.

That’s it for now - tomorrow, as promised earlier, I’ll discuss arranging the physical space in your classroom. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Managing Digital Learning Environments, pt 1

image from
What's wrong with the picture at right? There are no devices or gadgets in it. That's not realistic in today's classroom, yet many still operate there classrooms as if the picture at right was still an accurate representation of schools today. This needs to change. 

Listen to Episode 28: Managing Digital Learning Environments, part 1: 

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Monday, April 30, 2018

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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