Month: May 2015

Food for Thought Friday: What Are You Reading This Summer?

by Kristie Burk

Last Wednesday, I joined the #educoach Twitter chat.  Sitting on my comfortable couch, I was easily able to talk with educators from all over the country for the hour and get some wonderful ideas!

One of our discussions was about our “educational” summer reading list.  I was excited because I had already started a summer reading list of some recommended educational books.  It’s a Google Doc, so feel free to look at the list and to add to it.  Here’s the URL if you want to share:

Within just a few minutes, I got a great list of suggestions from the group.  Todd Schmidt, a principal out of Corona del Mar, suggested two books that were just recently published: Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica and What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker and Jeffrey Zoul.  Both are definitely on my to-read list.

Other recommendations include:

  • Leadership Coaching for Educators: Bringing Out the Best in School Administrators by Karla Reiss and Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement by Lynne R. Schrum and Barbara B. Levin, suggested by Jessica Johnson, 2014 Wisconsin Elementary Principal of the Year.
  • Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller
  • and The Unstoppable Writing Teacher by M. Colleen Cruz, suggested by Jackie Wincoop, a literacy coach in Central PA.
  • Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess and The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation

    by Elena Aguilar, suggested by Amy Herter, a tech coach from Kansas.
  • Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/school Partnerships by Anne T. Henderson, suggested by Jay Posik, a middle school principal from Wisconsin.
  • No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-Of-Control Behavior by Jed Baker and 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 by Thomas W. Phelan, suggested by Debbie, an assistant principal in Texas.
  • High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching by Jim Knight, suggested by Dan Butler, principal in Western Dubuque Community School District in Iowa.
  • The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, suggested by Kristie Bleers. 

I’m excited to read some of the books on the list and to see your suggestions as well.  (Don’t forget to add them at!)

And before you ask about whether I prefer digital books or printed books, the answer is…both!  I love to use my Kindle Paperwhite in the summer because it can hold hundreds of books when luggage space is at a premium and I can read it outdoors without glare. I also like that I can loan and borrow books from my mom’s Kindle account and that I can get lots of ebooks for free with my Chester County Library Account.

But there is something special about the feel of a “real” book with pages to turn and weight in my hand.  I’m reading the first book of the Harry Potter series with my last child and there’s something special about the dog-eared, smudged pages that I’ve touched many times before.

Happy summer reading, folks!


Website Wednesday: Post Your Summer Material on Schoology!

Students studying outside by UBC Library, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  UBC Library 

by Kristie Burk

Over the last few days, I’ve had a few questions from teachers about posting summer material for students on Schoology. To make things easier for our students and their parents, I’ve created a DASD Summer Materials for Grades 6-12 group. This group is open, so anyone can join. Here’s the URL if you’d like to share with students:

Your current courses will be archived this summer (and your new courses with your new students won’t be created until August), so this is a great way to get material to your students now.  You can go into the group and add review sheets, practice problems, helpful videos, books to read and even assignments.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Tech Tip Tuesday: Skype Translator

Skype in the Classroom by mrmayo, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  mrmayo 

Today’s guest blogger is Michelle Nass, DHSW Librarian and Onsite Coordinator for the Ivy Academy.

by Michelle Nass.
So, I’m excited.  I know, that doesn’t really take a whole lot, but friends, this is exciting.  Microsoft has added a translator to Skype!  In fact, you can just go ahead and download the Skype Translator preview here.  
Skype Translator automatically translates your voice and video calls with real-time translation. Here’s how it works:
  • You can call almost anyone who has Skype.
  • Your conversation is translated into another language in near real-time.
  • What someone else says is translated back in your language.
  • An on-screen transcript of your call is display.
  • You can send instant messages across 50 languages – from Arabic to Yucatec Maya.
At Downingtown’s first EdCamp this year, I was really interested in fellow librarian, Christy Brennan’s (@christybrenn) presentation of Google Hangouts and I started wondering how I could work this into our work at West.  I didn’t get much beyond that honestly… It’s been tabled for next year. I’ll get to it, I promise. This, though, I don’t have to wonder all that much about.  Immediately, I thought of our language classrooms, of our elementary students who have just started their language journeys in Rosetta Stone, of our African-Asian Studies students, of our Holocaust Symposium, of our student exchange programs, and the list goes on.
What gets me is the video below.

Check out the looks of wonder on those students’ faces.  Notice when the children say “I would love to visit you someday.” Think of these connections and of those boundaries that are immediately traversed and overcome in an instant.  Think of where these kids can go virtually, and then maybe someday,  physically.  And then, come back to that wonder on the students’ faces.  Isn’t that what we are all about, that spark?  So, I’m excited.  Let me know if you are too, and we can do something about that.

For more details, please check out these two blogs, especially Joyce Valenza’s:

Richard Bryne’s Blog: “Skype Translator Preview Opens to All Windows 8 & 10 Users” 
Joyce Valenza’s Blog: “Translator is Here.  Forget the Four Walls Thing.” 

Food for Thought Friday: Why Reducing Test Anxiety in Students May Be Counterproductive

by Kristie Burk

Do you remember that scared or anxious feeling you had before a test? As a teacher or a parent, have you often tried to calm down a child before a test?  In her article called “Use Stress to Your Advantage: To Perform Under Pressure, Research Finds that Welcoming Anxiety is More Helpful Than Calming Down,” author Kelly McGonigal discusses research that shows anxiety may help people perform better on tests and other performance situations. She argues that we should be telling students that their stress can help them perform well on an exam and that it doesn’t necessarily have a negative effect.

“Students who viewed their anxiety as helpful, not harmful, reported less emotional exhaustion. They also did better on their exams and earned higher grades at the end of the term. Critically, the effects of mind-set were strongest when anxiety levels were high. A positive mind-set protected the most anxious students from emotional exhaustion and helped them to succeed in their goals.” – Kelly McGonigal

It’s a fascinating article if, like me, you assumed that it’s better to calm yourself down before a test.  Of course, none of these studies were done on young children…still, some food for thought.

Check out the article and let us know what you think!

Website Wednesday: Create Your Own Infographics with Piktochart


by Kristie Burk

An infographic is a visual representation of information. If you’re a visual learner, an infographic is an excellent way to provide knowledge through the use of graphics, charts, colors and other visual elements. For students, infographics can be a good way to share information on a subject; teachers could also ask students to create their own infographic as a form of assessment. Alyssa Day, AP Psychology teacher at DHSE, had a student use Piktochart to create this infographic.

There are multiple websites that can help you create an infographic.  The one on the left was created at the website Piktochart. After registering for my free account, I was able to start working on a template. I could drag-and-drop images from the website or import my own; most of the functionality was fairly intuitive since the site works similarly to Microsoft Word.

There are other great websites that can help you create your own infographics, including, and  My suggestion is to play around with several sites to find the one that “speaks” to you. You may want to search multiple sites to find the template that most closely matches the one you’re imagining.

If you’ve created your own infographic or if your students are using them, share them with us!

Tech Tip Tuesday: Schedule Meetings In-House with Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant

by Kristie Burk

Last week, I talked to you about Doodle, a great website to help you schedule meetings with students, parents, or people outside the district.

I received the following email from Jamie Siegel:

Hey Kristie, I love the Doodle website, but I was wondering if you could also let everyone know how helpful the Scheduling Assistant is through Outlook… Scheduling Assistant is a great resource that we have through district e-mail and is more efficient than multiple e-mails being sent with days/times.

Great suggestion, Jamie!  If you don’t know about the scheduling assistant in Outlook, keep reading…

Are you trying to schedule a meeting and everyone in the meeting has a district email account? If so, you can see their schedules before you send out the invite. Here’s how it works:

Open the Outlook client on your device.

Click on calendar and then new appointment.

Click on scheduling assistant.

Add the attendee’s name and Outlook will automatically populate the table with their schedule.  In the bottom right-hand corner, you’ll even see a list of “suggested times” for the meeting and the number of conflicts for each one.

Of course, this means that you have to populate your calendar with the times that you are busy, so that people can see when you’re available!

If you have a tip that you think other people would like to know, please email us at

Do You Have Access To Free eBooks and AudioBooks for the Summer?

Today’s guest blogger is Michelle Nass, DHSW Librarian and Onsite Coordinator for the Downingtown Ivy Academy.

By Michelle Nass

In a few days, I will be running through summer reading book selections with many of our students and will be introducing how to download e-books, audiobooks and magazines from both our catalog and Chester County Public Library.

Did you know that you have access to all of this wonderfulness, too?

I’ve attached the directions that I am giving to the students.  Our e-book catalog is just beginning to grow, and in the upcoming years, I expect that it will continue to grow quite a bit as I expect to focus more resources on e-books as time moves on.  Chester County Public Library, though, has tons of resources.  In the summer, I tend to get most of my books through their Overdrive system.

The Chester County Public Library now also has Flipster, which gives you access to magazines as well.  Next year we hope to have every student signed up for a public library card, so they will all have access to everything in both Overdrive and Flipster.

Want to have access for your summer reading?  Click here for instructions on how to access and download free audio and ebooks.

Someone said to me yesterday that she was “building the plane as [she is] flying it” and that’s kind of how I am feeling with the e-books, so forgive any wrinkles in the fabric.  Better yet, tell me, and I’ll try my best to iron them out!