Month: March 2016

Mark Your Calendar for Edcamp Downingtown!

by Kristie Burk

If you want to participate in a truly unique learning experience, plan to be at Edcamp Downingtown on June 23, 2016.

What is an Edcamp?

Edcamps recognize and honor the expertise of teachers. Each Edcamp is organized and run by the educators who show up. An Edcamp is not professional development based on what someone else says that you need to learn or know; it is truly participant-driven.  Do you have a concern that you’d like to discuss? Something that you need to know more about? Something awesome that you’d love to share? Edcamp is the place for you!

For starters, there is no schedule until the day of the event! YOU set the schedule.

The sessions are developed in the morning, based on the interests and questions of the people who give up their time to learn from and with other educators. There are no outside experts; the teachers who show up, working together, are the experts.

Edcamp Downingtown is open to any educator who wants to attend.  Last year, we had participants who came all the way from Bermuda!

What will happen at Edcamp Downingtown?

Edcamps are not your traditional conference.  When you arrive in the morning, we’ll begin with some coffee and some networking time.  We will have a whiteboard with available classrooms and session times, but no sessions…yet.

Do you have an idea for a session you’d like to lead or a conversation you’d like to have? Simply walk up to the board and write in your idea!   You don’t need to have a full-blown presentation with slides and handouts; we just need you to facilitate the session— the other folks in the room will jump right in.

If you don’t want to lead a session, you can head to the topics that most interest you, but be prepared to share.

Registration information is coming soon…but mark your calendars now!


Website Wednesday: Bouncy Balls

bouncy_balls.pngby Kristie Burk

I love, love, love the website Bouncy Balls because it’s just so darn cute and perfect for kids.

The concept is simple – when you go to the website, your page is filled with bouncy balls that sit on the bottom of the screen when it is quiet. You can also display bubbles, eyeballs, or emoji. The louder it gets – the more the balls will bounce around the screen. (Just make sure you have your laptop’s microphone is turned on.)  The quieter it is, the less the balls move.

Kids will get a kick out of measuring their volume with the balls.  It’s an adorable classroom management tool that is easy to use. Check it out!


Tech Tip Tuesday: Nearpod

By Lois Grasso, Instructional Coach at Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center


Nearpod is a fast-growing mobile learning platform that helps teachers create engaging classroom experiences for use with smartphones, tablets, desktops and multiple operating systems.

To view my Nearpod presentation, click here: and enter the PIN IHLEA. (I have a paid account, so you can view this at your leisure).

Nearpod is an excellent tool for creating interactive educational content.  This makes each teacher a course developer who can control a synchronized digital lecture in a classroom.  Like Kahoot, students join the Nearpod session using an access code that the teacher generates. Better yet, it requires no special tools, logins or training.

When the teacher changes slides in a presentation, students’ slides do, too.  Nearpod is often referred to as “Powerpoint on steroids” because of the interactive elements that teachers add to the presentation to check on student engagement and understanding in real-time.  Teachers actually see everything the students submit immediately.   Interactive items like polls, drawings, open-ended questions, discussions and quizzes are just a few of the tools teachers can use.

As always there is a free version and a paid account ($50 a year for teachers in PA due to a deal negotiated between Nearpod and BCIU).   The free version provides 80% of the overall functionally and is a great starting and ending place for most teachers.  The paid account provides for asynchronous rollout of the lessons for either homework; blended classrooms; independent work stations, etc. and has added features like virtual field trips and note taking.

Of all the tools I’ve used to leverage the power of teachers to improve teaching and learning by touching a large number of students and providing instant feedback on who is doing what, I’d have to rank Nearpod as one of the best.

For more information on Nearpod go to

Take a Quizlet to the Next Level

quizlet live.pngby Kristie Burk

Are you looking for something engaging (and free!) to help your students learn right before spring break?  If you are already using Quizlet with your students, you may want to try its new Quizlet Live feature.

The Live feature is still in beta, but I tried it without any problems.  Think of it as Kahoot-ing your Quizlet!   So how does it work?

You need to use your teacher account with a minimum of 6 students and at least 12 terms.  The students are then randomly paired into teams to race against each other to clear their board first. Students match the terms and definitions; wrong answers set the team back to zero.

Here are the detailed instructions if you’d like to try it out!

Website Wednesday: Thinglink

by Kristie Burk

Thinglink is an awesome online tool that allows users to embed links, audio recordings or videos on top of an image. Just click on any of the dots on the image to get started. For example, this Thinglink helps students learn about the layers of the Earth:

If you were interested in seeing how Stephen Curry shoots from different areas of the court, you can look at this Thinglink:

This tool is great for teachers to use, but you can also have your students create their own Thinglink to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Photomath

by Kristie Burk

Sometimes I like to share apps that are great for students and teachers.  Other times, I just want educators to be aware of some of the apps that exist. Today I want to share one of those apps.

Photomath is an app that is available for an iOS or Android that allows students to take a photo of a math problem and the app will calculate the correct answer.  But wait…there’s more. By just a click of a button, the app will list all of the steps to finding the answer. Ostensibly, this tool could be used for students to check their answers or to better understand how an answer was derived. Unfortunately, it’s also a way for students to get the answers without doing the work themselves. Now, most good teachers will tell students that the homework is meant for practice and will help them on a summative assessment later. We might have to keep reiterating this concept.

Photomath is not just for simple problems. It can handle complex arithmetic operations, linear equations, roots and powers, quadratic equations, factorization, logarithmic and exponential functions, Trigonometry, derivation and integration.

Here’s a short video that shows you exactly how the app works:


Photomath 2.0 from MicroBLINK on Vimeo.

Food for Thought Friday: Teacher Shortages

by Kristie Burk

Last week, Dr. Reed, Assistant Superintendent of the Downingtown Area School District, shared this article from LancasterOnline called “Lancaster County will feel shortage of classroom teachers in less than two years.” A followup editorial in the Pottstown Mercury News called “Pa.’s looming teacher, substitute shortage” appeared last Friday.

Both articles discuss some startling statistics from the PA Department of Education regarding possible future teacher shortages.  For example, the articles report that the number of in-state residents seeking teacher certifications was 6,215 in 2015, down from 16,361 three years earlier. That is a 62 percent decrease in just 3 years!  And it’s not just a Pennsynvaia problem.  The government’s website on Title II Higher Education Act shows that the number of initial teacher certifications nationally has dropped by 30% in the last 5 years.