Month: January 2015

Food for Thought Friday: 5 Ways to Deal with Innovation Overload

by Kristie Burk

This week I had the pleasure of spending the day at the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center to see the kids and the teachers using their iPads to enhance learning. The students were fabulous and I met a lot of wonderful, enthusiastic teachers.  One of them said to me, “I really like getting your blog, but it’s overwhelming.  I just can’t keep up with it all!”

I feel your pain.  Really, I do.  Last week, I attended a four-day educational technology conference from 8-7 every day.  I learned about hardware, software, apps, tools, programs…tons and tons every day. By the middle of the second day, I started to experience innovation overload. There is so much great stuff out there, but there is A LOT.  It makes my head spin.

I came up with the following list of ways to deal with innovation overload. I hope that it helps you!

  1. Filter – When you get this blog, feel free to discard the messages that don’t apply to you.  If you read about an app or a tool that you don’t think will be useful, move on to something else.  Or if you know a digital tool that does something similar, there is really no need to learn something different. I promise my feelings won’t be hurt.
  2. Save the nuggets – One of the MC teachers says that she has created a folder in Outlook where she stores the blog posts that are interesting to her.  This way, she can read about them later when she has more time.  At my conference, I took notes on everything I heard in Evernote to review when I have more time.
  3. Give yourself a Genius Hour – Ms. Fiske is letting her students experiment with the Genius Hour.  Google employees are allowed 20% of their time to work on their own projects. How about giving yourself a little bit of time each week to play with some new technology or to improve what you’re already using?
  4. Make friends with the tech gurus in your school. I heard over and over again this week from the Marsh Creek teachers about how invaluable Lois Grasso and Peggy Alvarez have been. Make friends with someone in your school who is willing to show you some technology. You know who they are! (Bringing some cookies probably doesn’t hurt.)
  5. Give yourself a break. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, just give yourself a break.  Technology IS overwhelming!  It is moving so quickly and it’s a challenge to keep up.  The only thing that matters is that we’re all trying.

Have an awesome weekend, everyone!


Tech Tip Tuesday: Create a Wordle with Your Students

by Kristie Burk
wordcloudHappy Tuesday, friends!  Are you enjoying the snow yet?

Today, I’d like to talk about tools like Wordle and Tagxedo that can help you generate word clouds. You can change the shape, font, layout, colors, and more.  You can generate a word cloud using text from a blog or website.

Holly Chalfont at Shamona Creek used Tagxedo with her fifth grade class to make holiday gifts for parents.  The students got to select the shape and they were told to use words that described their family.  They printed out the word clouds and glued them onto tiles to make coasters.  (I may be biased, but it was an awesome gift!)

Word clouds have many uses.  You could use them to access prior knowledge; ask students to create word clouds using everything they know about a topic or use them as a formative assessment to gauge students’ understanding.  A teacher could create a word cloud from a particular text that the students will be reading; Wordle will even let you highlight key words in the text that could generate discussion.

Word clouds can be saved and shared. It only takes a few minutes for students to make one, but they’ll find it easy and interesting.  I made this word cloud with Tagxedo and it only took a few minutes.

Let us know how you use word clouds in your classroom…

Food for Thought Friday: Learning about Life from 80 Successful People

by Kristie Burk

On this Food for Thought Friday, I wanted to share an article that I found on LinkedIn.  If you’re not on LinkedIn, by the way, you should consider it.  LinkedIn is a social network for your professional contacts.  (I actually found this Cyber Coordinator job when LinkedIn suggested it to me – how cool is that?)

Today’s article is called “What I Learned About Life After Interviewing 80 Highly Successful People” by James Altucher, co-founder of 20 companies and author of many best selling books, including Choose Yourself.

In the article, he explains that he learned about the importance of laughter and play, for example, from a 28-year old man who has built himself an empire helping others become entrepreneurs.

“I’ve written before: The average kid laughs 300 times a day. The average adult…5.

Something knifed our ability to smile. Do everything you can to laugh, to create laughter for others, and then what can possibly be bad about today?” – James Altucher

Take a few minutes to read the article and let us know what you think at!

Teaching Films without…The Film!

by Kristie Burk

filmI love, love, love when people share!  That’s why I was so thrilled to get an email from Ellen Resnek, a social studies teacher at DHSE, with a link to an article on MiddleWeb by Frank W. Baker about teaching film literacy without a film.  I loved that she shared, not only because it was an interesting article, but because our blended teachers are currently struggling with not having enough time to show (the only copy) of a DVD during their face-to-face meetings.

This article definitely recommends some clever solutions, such as viewing film stills or analyzing scripts. Check it out and don’t forget to share what you know – that’s how we grow.

Website Wednesday: Turning PDFs into Beautiful Digital books

Nazi_bookIt is not often that I get super excited about a particular website, but I absolutely love FlipSnack! FlipSnack takes your boring pdfs and turns them into a flippable book. I’ve tried similar websites before, but I like the range of options that FlipSnack provides above some of its competitors.

The steps are simple. You upload (or drag and drop) jpeg or pdf files to the website. In the second step, you can customize your book by the type of flip, the cover page, and background options, including an uploaded picture. One of the options that is somewhat hidden is the checkbox to “merge all files into one.” This takes all of the files and creates one book.

The results are lovely; you get a beautiful, flippable book with a link to share with students or to post on Facebook or Twitter. And it’s all done using the free version. In addition to making pdfs more interesting to view, teachers can create their own electronic textbooks. I’ve also seen samples where students create a book as a culminating project. Take a peek at FlipSnack and let me know what you think.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Prevent Copyright Violations with Images

by Kristie Burk

Today’s Tech Tip is about a tool that is not particularly sexy, but it is prevents you from being sued.  So there.

The tool is called ImageCodr  and it helps people to generate proper attributions for Flickr images you would like to use on your own blog,  website, or digital pages.   Flickr currently hosts more than 200 million images that are licensed under a Creative Commons license.

If you want to use a Flickr image, the process can be laborious.  First, you need to be sure that you understand the image’s license and whether or not you can share and/or adapt the image.  Then, you must be sure to give the author proper credit, to link to the Flickr profile, and to link to the image’s license. If you’re using multiple images, this process could take time.

ImageCodr takes all of the work out. Once you find a Flickr image you want to use, you simply copy and paste the URL of the image into ImageCodr. The website will automatically generate a table telling you four things: if you can share the image, if you must attribute the image to the author, if you can use the image commercially and if you’re allowed to alter the image. (No more excuses for not understanding how the license works.)

At the bottom of the ImageCodr page, select the size of the image that you would like and the site generates the html code that includes both the image and the correct attribution. Copy and paste the code into your website or blog and you’re done!


Food for Thought Friday: Consider Becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator

Today’s blog post is written by guest blogger, Ben Mountz, physics teachers at Downingtown High School East and an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE).  In today’s blog, Ben wants you to consider applying to become an ADE and he gives you some great reasons why! You can subscribe to Ben’s blog here.

by Ben Mountz

appleOne of the greatest professional experiences of my career has been my involvement with the Apple Distinguished Educators.  Twenty years ago, the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program was founded by a small group of educators who were passionate about using the tools of technology to foster better education.  Today, it is a organization of thousands of highly-talented education professionals who contribute to a global professional network. Innovation, creation, and a culture of sharing are hallmarks of the ADE community.

Four years ago, on the recommendation of an Apple trainer who visited our school, I applied to be an Apple Distinguished Educator.  Somehow (I still don’t know how), I got accepted.  Not that I had low expectations from Apple, but I was expecting to receive some sort of inkjet-printed certificate of completion in the mail that I could frame and put on my wall.  What I received was a host of friends, skills, and experiences that would take me around the world (Phoenix, Ireland, Austin, San Diego), and to opportunities I’d never imagined (presenting at state and national conferences, getting published on iTunes U, and speaking at Apple events).  I still don’t know how I got here – but this I do know: I love it.

Here’s the point: This same opportunity awaits you.  Are you passionate about what you teach?  Are you an administrator who is trying to cultivate real and innovative change in education?  Then the call of the Apple Distinguished Educators is there for you.  Don’t be intimidated by the high caliber of the educators in this group; everybody who is an ADE questions whether or not they belong. Everybody.  This just underscores yet another remarkable trait of ADEs: their humility.  (I’d better be careful here, lest I start bragging about humility).  But it’s a great duality of this group: talented and motivated, yet humble and inclusive.  Everybody is made to feel welcome – and it has changed my perspective on the education profession.  I highly encourage you to apply.  It has been one of the best things I have ever done.

At the time of this writing, the application period for new inductees has not yet opened, although it will open VERY SOON.  Here is the link to the site for the Apple Distinguished Educators program.  Watch for the application window to open!  (You will need an Apple ID to sign in).  Give it your best, and know that there are still places out there where you are encouraged to show how distinguished you really are.