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.

---------------------- Segment Break ---------------

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

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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

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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

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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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