Month: June 2015

8 Common Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating iPads Into the Classroom

by Kristie Burk

A few weeks ago, I talked about the importance of having a personal learning network, or a group of people with whom you share information.  As part of my PLN on Pinterest, I follow Michelle Curcio, a technology teacher at Lionville Middle School. She recently pinned this great article called “The 8 Most Common Mistakes When Integrating iPads into the Classroom” (and how to avoid them.)  Check it out whether you’re a seasoned iPad user or a newbie!

If you’ve integrated iPads into your classroom, share what you’ve learned at…


Website Wednesday: More Ways to Use Common Sense Media

by Kristie Burk

When people ask me about my favorite website as a parent, I almost always answer Common Sense Media. Before my children watch a movie, download an app, or play a video game, I like to consult this site (and/or use the app).  When my eleven-year old son wants to download an app to his iPhone, he knows that he has to check the age rating on Common Sense Media first. For example, he knows that Minecraft has an age rating of “8,” so I’ll probably approve it.  However, Common Sense Media gives Meerkat an age of “17,” so he knows not to even bother to ask about that one!

In addition to the age ratings, Common Sense Media will rate the app on ease of play; violence; sex; language; consumerism; drinking, drugs, & smoking; and privacy & safety.  You can even drill down to get more specific details in each category.

There are some other great uses for Common Sense Media and Technology for Educators as well:

1.  Find the best websites, apps, and games, rated for learning by educators and mapped to standards.

2.  Access free K-12 curriculum to teach students digital responsibility.

3.  Look at plans to implement 1:1 into your classroom.

4.  Access professional development materials.

Do you use Common Sense Media and, if so, how? Let us know at

Tech Tip Tuesday: 17 iPad Apps Loved by Sixth Grade Teachers

by Kristie Burk

Our Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center had a great year – it opened a new building, gathered all 1000+ sixth graders in the district, went 1:1 with iPads, used Google Apps for Educators, and went paperless.  Phew!

Over the school year, the teachers tested out various apps on the iPads and grew to love 17 apps in particular. Thank you to Lois Grasso, MC6GC technology teacher, for compiling this list of 17 apps loved by the sixth grade teachers!

Tech Tip Tuesday: Using Google Alerts

by Kristie Burk

Google Alerts is an underutilized tool that I find to be extremely useful.  The service is relatively simple, but powerful.  Type in a search query, such as “Downingtown Area School District” and enter the email address where you’d like your alerts sent.

You can choose the source for your alerts, such as news, blogs, video, discussions, etc. You can also select how often you would like these alerts.

How can you use Google Alerts?

  • If you’re tracking your digital footprint, you can create a Google Alert on your own name (or your school) to find out what people are saying about you!
  • Keep up-to-date on a specific topic.  For example, I’ve set up a Google Alert to let me know any time the words “blended learning” are mentioned in the news.
  • Use alerts to curate content!  If you are teaching contemporary history, you can create a Google Alert for news on ISIS, for example.

Because the alerts are run by Google, the search engine works similarly.  Make sure that you put your keywords in quotation marks, use symbols such as “-,” or search by particular sites.

8 Ways to Reflect on Your Year

Rearview Sunset by subadei, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  subadei 

by Kristie Burk

Today is the last teacher day of school in the Downingtown Area School District.  Hooray!

Over the last few days, I’ve seen several posting by teachers asking for feedback from their students about their classes.  What a great idea! I encourage you to talk to parents, students, and your colleagues about how the year went.  Most importantly, don’t forget to do some self-reflection as well. I encourage you to write down your reflections, whether they’re on paper or in Evernote.

Here are 8 questions to help you reflect on your year:

  1. What were the times you don’t want to forget? Hopefully, you had more than a few great moments this year. Maybe it was a particularly good lesson, a funny joke a student told, a nice parent interaction, or a visit from a former student.  Write down the experience and how it made you feel if you’re so inclined.  These are great to look back on during those not-so-great days.
  2. What did you accomplish professionally this year? Did you pilot the Reading Wonders program? Did you teach a blended class for the first time? Read a good book that changed your thinking? Take a good class? Learn a new app?  Write down everything you accomplished – from the big to the small.
  3. What did your class accomplish this year? Think about your class as a whole and all the things that you accomplished together.  (This list doesn’t have to include just academics!)
  4. What did your students accomplish this year? Think about each of your students as individuals.  Did any of them have a break-through? Was there a significant project that blew you away?  Did you finally reach that struggling learner? Celebrate each accomplishment.
  5. What was effective this year? If you think back to last August, what did you do (or not do) that had a noticeable effect? Think about all of the lessons, activities, videos, books, units, meetings, etc. that had an impact.  Write down the list so that you can replicate next year.  While you’re at it, think about how you can expand these successes into other areas.
  6. What didn’t go so well this year and why? This is a tough question, but it’s worth asking yourself. Before you answer, separate the responses into two sub-categories:
    1. Things that were not in my control.  Don’t even worry about these.  Let them go…
    2. Things that were in my control.  What do you plan to do differently next time?
  7. What are my goals for next year? This may also be a difficult question to answer and you may need to think about it for a while.  Take some time to read some educational books to get inspired! (Insert shameless plug for the summer reading list here.)

Where To Go For Your Tech Tips This Summer!

by Kristie Burk

The Downingtown Tech Chat is not taking a break – we’re going to continue to bring you great tips, websites, and educational articles throughout the summer!

Do you want to review any past articles or tips? Here are a few suggestions: (1)

  • You can visit  Click on the magnifying glass to search the articles or scroll down to view the archives and categories.
  • If you plan to look at some of these tools in more depth, don’t forget the excellent Tech Tools Libguide and the Open Source Libguide that Michelle Nass has curated for you.  It includes everything from the Dtown Tech Chat as well as from other resources.

Website Wednesday: Find Grants at Grants Alert!

Money by AMagill, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  AMagill 

by Kristie Burk

As educators, we know that there is no shortage of things we could do for students if we had more money! If you’re willing to invest a little time, you could find excellent grants from corporations, foundations, the state, and federal government at

Grants Alert is a great resource for finding grants in one location.  You can search by state, type of grant, deadline, or date added. In just a quick peek today, I found:

Don’t forget that you can request funds for your project ideas from Donors Choose! And you never know what can happen – last month Stephen Colbert funded all of the grant requests made by South Carolina public school teachers to the tune of $800,000!