Month: November 2016

December: The #Antiworksheet Challenge

worksheetby Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Blended and Cyber Learning

So why are we picking on the worksheet or (worse) the packet of worksheets? Well, a worksheet is not that engaging or exciting for students. It’s often not student-centered or meaningful. They’re rarely collaborative. And, it’s very easy for students to copy someone else’s worksheet.

So for the month of December, we are going to have a challenge – the #antiworksheet challenge! If you frequently use worksheets in your class, we’re going to give you digital alternatives every day during the month of December.  Of course, there are lots of non-digital alternatives to worksheets, too – but this is a tech chat.

We would love to hear your ideas!  Email them to or tweet it out using #antiworksheet. If you share your idea, you just may save a kid from a boring night of homework.


Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Expeditions

By Lois Grasso, Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center Instructional Coach

Do you want your students to visit new countries, explore historical landmarks, or swim through a coral reef?   Then Google Expeditions, a virtual reality teaching tool, is for you.   

Google Expeditions was mentioned in this blog over a year ago; however, at that time it only worked with android devices coupled with Google cardboard viewfinders like the ones in the pic below.

I am happy to report that as of September, 2016 Google Expeditions now works with iOS devices.

If your school has a cart of iPads or is 1:1, you can use them for Google Expedition tours. The app is free and has already been pushed out to the middle school iPads.  The Google Expedition iPad app allows students to move the device around in the air to explore a tour in 360 degrees without the cardboard viewfinders.  All the while the teacher directs the tour using the talking points provided by the app.  Note:  you can also purchase google cardboard viewfinders that attach to mobile phones for a more immersive tour.

Sample expedition of Buckingham Palace – view on a Smartphone or iPad to experience the virtual reality effect

Expeditions Workflow

The flow for iPad Expeditions is as follows:

  • Download the app onto the teacher iPad
  • Download the app onto student iPads
  • Make sure both teacher and students are on the same Wi-Fi
  • Download the expedition from the app that you want to use in the class
  • Launch the Expeditions app on the teacher tablet and set it up to wait for the clients to connect (lead an expedition)
  • Start presenting the selected Expedition to the students

There are about 200 expeditions available for download using the app. The Great Barrier Reef, Buckingham Palace, Rio, Mount Everest and Sharks for instance.  Better yet, the teacher tour comes with talking points. Take your class on a virtual tour soon.

Teacher how to video    Google Support

Helping Kids Understand Fake News

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Cyber and Blended Learning

After the election, we’ve been hearing a lot about “fake news,” fabricated stories that are masquerading as real news. Lots of fingers are pointing at Facebook, which is known for allowing fake news to slip into its newsfeed, but other social media outlets are also to blame.

Children, in particular, are vulnerable to clickbait, alluring stories that purposefully attempt to attract readers with sensational or controversial headlines. For example, a Stanford University study set to be released on Tuesday says that 82% (!!) of middle school students cannot tell the difference between a news post and an advertisement.

“Teens also can learn basic skills used by professional fact-checkers, Dr. Wineburg says. Rather than trusting the “about” section of a website to learn about it, teach them “lateral reading”—leaving the website almost immediately after landing on it and research the organization or author.” – Sue Shellenbarger

I read about the study this morning all over the news (yes, the real news), but I liked the perspective in this article called “Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds,” by Sue Shellenbarger. The article is aimed at helping parents teach their children to be more media-savvy, but it also contains useful information for all educators.

Rethinking Online Assessments

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Blended and Online Learning

Last week, our article on “Curbing” Cheating in the Tech Era struck a nerve with many people who tweeted, emailed, and posted about the problems that they encounter trying to combat cheating.  One teacher from Downingtown West told me about how her students are using instant messaging on their Macbooks to share answers with each other during an online assessment. Another teacher from Marsh Creek told me about a student who had multiple screenshots of an exam on his iPad. An English teacher lamented about how students could click on a word during a vocabulary quiz and have the definition pop up.


We could return to paper and pencil tests, but let’s face it – students have been cheating for a long time.  Before the age of smartphones, girls would hide index cards in the hems of their skirts and other students would write answers inside the labels of a water bottle. Also, digital assessments also provide us with instant access to data that we might not otherwise have.

We cannot stop all cheating, but there are some steps that we can take to help reduce it.

First, think differently about online assessment. Traditional approaches to testing don’t work well online. That’s not bad; most teachers agree that rote memorization is not the most effective way to learn (or to measure learning).

In online courses, treat every test as if it were “open book.” Use questions that challenge students even if they use resources when forming their answers. This practice is more like our real life tests anyway.

Treat online assessments as part of the learning process, not the students’ “final chance.” Assessments should not only measure learning, but serve as part of the learning process.

Here are just a few other things that you can to do to reduce cheating when giving assessments:

  • Give proctored face-to-face tests when it is feasible to do so. Walk around the room through the test/quiz/exam, etc.
  • Employ an academic honesty statement into every assessment. For example, you can include the following true/false question (statement) into a Schoology quiz: “I pledge on my honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assessment.” Research has shown that these real-time reminders can actually reduce cheating.
  • Utilize a variety of question types (e.g. multiple choice, fill-in, and short answers).
  • Include several questions that relate directly to online or classroom discussions. These questions will be difficult to answer by someone who hasn’t actually participated in the discussions.
  • Consider other assessments for grading learners, such as papers, discussion participation, or projects.
  • Publicize the content and format to students in advance. Students will often cheat when they’re surprised by what is on tests.
  • Ask questions that require authentic application of knowledge. The most important way to overcome online cheating (and realistically assess student understanding) is to use application level questions. Essays, case studies, and other complex question types can be challenging to answer even if you are looking at the book.
  • Use questions that require some personal opinions from students. Ask students to provide examples from their own lives. These kinds of personal details are difficult to fake.
  • Consider mastery learning, which allows students to redo assessments if they perform poorly.

There are also some technical things you can do in Schoology to reduce cheating:

  • Give timed online tests or make online tests available for a limited period of time.
  • Randomize the order of the questions.
  • Randomize the order of the answers. (If you choose to randomize answers, do not use answers such as ‘all the above,’ ‘both a and b are true,’ etc. The randomization will cause these answers to be invalid.)
  • Deliver one question at a time to make screenshots harder.
  • Use question banks to deliver different questions to each student.

Not sure how to do these things in Schoology? Be sure to ask your instructional coaches for help!

Food for Thought Friday: How Students Can Protect Their Future Careers

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Cyber and Blended Learning

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “What does the future hold for our students?” There were some scary statistics, including the one that said  $2 trillion worth of human economic activity will be replaced by robots in the future.  Don’t agree? Read this article from NPR on how robots in California are making pizzas!

If you, too, are worried about our students’ future, you may want to read this article from The Atlantic called “Ask an Economist: How Students Can Future-Proof Their Careers.”  It contains advice from economists all of the world who were asked which skills they’d focus on if they were about to start their first year of college. Some great food for thought!

Make Sure You Go Incognito!

997415862.pngby Jeff Smith, Downingtown Middle School Instructional Coach and Downingtown West High School Business Education Teacher

If you’ve ever used a public computer before, it’s possible you’ve encountered either side of this embarrassing and potentially dangerous scenario:

You enter the GUEST profile of a shared computer. Then you open your favorite web browser and start navigating to your email account. Before you get a chance to enter your username and password, the email service logs in automatically, and you’re somehow staring at hundreds of sensitive emails that belong to jen******, a complete stranger. You quickly realize that this stranger forgot to logout of her private email account! Because you’re not a cyber criminal, you mercifully log jen****** out of this privacy nightmare and go on your merry way, emailing, surfing the web, and laughing at cat videos… Thankfully, you’re not like poor, helpless jen******

Make sure you go INCOGNITO!!

Incognito or private browsing mode is featured on all of the popular web browsers under various names:

Safari (Private Browsing)
Chrome (Incognito)
FireFox (Private Window)
Explorer/Edge (InPrivate browsing)

As you might suspect, these features help to keep your web browsing data “private” from the machine you are using. In short, they prevent the browser from collecting the data that it usually collects when you access websites: cookies, search history, and login credentials. This is especially useful because sometimes websites may offer to save your password by default and you can easily forget to deny that permission, especially if you’re in a hurry. While private or incognito browsing features aren’t the only surefire method for keeping your identity and sensitive information safe online, they can certainly help you to avoid leaving personal breadcrumbs behind while using a public device.

If you’d like to learn more about private browsing, including some extra helpful tips for how to use it, check out this article from or ask an instructional coach.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Print Friendly and PDF

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Cyber and Blended Learning

Thank you to Dosie Rutkowski, blended English teacher at Downingtown East and West, for today’s useful tech tip.

She showed me a great Google extension (with a not-so-great name) called “Print Friendly and PDF.”

Add the extension to your Chrome browser. When you find a website that you’d like to print out or to make into a pdf, you click on the extension. It will remove all of the ads, navigation, and other unnecessary material.

The best part of this extension, however, is that it lets you easily pick material that you want to delete.  Does the page have an image that may not be age-appropriate? You can delete it. Have a paragraph that you don’t need your students to read? Delete it.  You can even make the text larger, which is useful for students who may have visual impairments.

Do you have a technology tool that you think others would find useful? Let us know at