Food for Thought Friday: Putting Away Technology to Be Present with Colleagues

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Cyber and Blended Learning

Last month I read a great article by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, the online real estate company, called “The Problem with Multi-Tasking as a Leader – And 4 Ways to Be More Present.”  Whether you’re the leader of a school, a department, or a classroom, he gives some sage advice for being more present with your colleagues.  Most of his tips address the need to handle technology properly.

“You can’t make people feel heard and valued when you signal that something else deserves your attention more.” – Spencer Rascoff

First, this CEO of an online company advises leaders to put away the laptop in meetings.  Putting away a laptop and taking paper-and-pen notes allows leaders to make eye contact and not “[think] about topics other than the ones right in front” of them.  You can always scan your paper notes into Evernote or Google Drive later or develop a checklist to put into Google Keep.

Second, Rascoff keeps his phone out of reach (not even having it on the table) when talking to colleagues so that it doesn’t divert his attention.

Great food for thought this Friday!


10 Digital Cleaning Tips for the New Year

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Blended and Cyber Learning

Happy New Year!

The beginning of the new year is usually a time when people clean house; they organize their closets, clean out drawers, and recycle old papers. As we roll into 2018, consider some of the following digital housekeeping tasks to do as well:

  1. Clean up your desktop. Every time you open your operating system, memory is used to display all the files on your desktop.  Organize your files, screenshots, etc. into folders and give them clear labels.
  2. Clean your desktop or laptop.  Literally. Research shows that keyboards may be 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat. (And don’t ask about those ID badges!) Using antimicrobial wipes with excess water squeezed out, wipe down your keyboard, mouse, phones, etc. and follow up quickly with a dry cloth. Try to do this more than once a year.
  3. Change your passwords. At the very least, change your passwords on the most sensitive items. Make sure that your passwords are at least 10 characters; contain letters, numbers, and characters; and use both lowercase and capital letters.
  4. Organize your Google Drive. Delete all the items you no longer need or want.  Organize everything else into folders.  Make them color-coded if you’re feeling particularly organized.
  5. Unsubscribe to unwanted email.The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires all businesses to make it easy for people to unsubscribe to an email service and they must do so within 10 business days of a request. This may take a little bit of time, but think about how much time you’re saving yourself in the long run when these messages are no longer cluttering your inbox.
  6. Organize your email into folders. I have many folders in my email, including “To be Addressed,” “Waiting On,” “Conferences,” etc.  Folders help keep your inbox to zero email.
  7. Use the Outlook inbox rules to move incoming email to a new folder immediately.  To do this, right click on any email in your inbox and select “create rule.”   For example, I subscribe to a service called “Nuzzle” that tells me about the stories that people are tweeting about.  I have rule that these email go directly into a folder called “Tech Chat Blog Info.”
  8. Put apps into folders on your tablets or phones. This reduces clutter and helps you find apps more quickly.  While you’re at it, delete the apps you’re not using. You can always redownload them if needed.
  9. Reboot. It amazes me how many people never turn off their phones or they close their laptops instead of logging off. Turning off your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop restarts all software and helps get rid of a lot of problems, including for programs like web browsers.
  10. Delete (or store in the cloud) photos, texts, voicemail, etc. Here’s a great article from PC Mag on how to free up space on your mobile device.

What did we forget? Let us know!

Ask Your Students To Create a Paperslide Video #antiworksheet

by Jen Hervada, Lionville Middle School Instructional Coach

Instead of a worksheet, have your students create a Paperslide Video explaining the content you want them to learn.  Use Dr. Lodge McCammon’s  Paperslide Video Strategy: using an iPad, cellphone or video camera “hit record, present your material, then hit stop – and your product is done” video creation.

The Paperslide video allows students to summarize content while including main ideas, key points and vocabulary words using pictures and recorded video.

Keep the video’s short; have the students watch each other’s videos and vote for which Paperslide Videos explains the content in the best way.

See Dr. Lodge McCammon’s Website for more information about using Paperslide Videos in your classroom.




Ask Your Students To Interview Someone Else #antiworksheet

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Blended and Cyber Learning

Instead of asking your students to answer questions on a worksheet, why not have them interview someone as part of an assignment?  To make it more interesting, ask the students to record the interview either in audio or video form and post it to Schoology.  (Posting it in a media album would be a great way to share.)

In Jim Smink’s cyber Driver’s Safety Education course at Downingtown East, he created an assignment that asks the students to interview a driver over the age of 21 and to record the interview on video.  The students had to ask at least the following questions:

  • What does the driver do to personally reduce risks when driving?
  • What does the driver do to keep his or her car in safe condition?
  • What does he or she do to anticipate the actions of others?

After the interview, students briefly reflected on the responses. This is a great assignment that allows the teacher to see and hear the student in action (and the assignment becomes fairly cheat-proof).  Try it out!

Have Your Students Curate Research Using Memonic #antiworksheet

by Kathryn Meyers, Downingtown STEM Academy Instructional Coach

Instead of fill in the blank worksheets for any grade level or subject area, try using the Memonic app, downloadable from memonic.com.  Users can grab bits and pieces of text and graphics from websites, clip the content, and organize it into folders or share it with others. This app is also especially useful for students curating information from numerous websites to write a paper or essay.  Memonic syncs with all devices, so you can move seamlessly from your phone to your laptop.

Get Your Students Drawing Their Learning #antiworksheet

downloadby Sara Brosious, Downingtown East Instructional Coach

Google Drawing an impactful tool tucked away in the list of your GSuite products.  The collaborative drawing board is a space that students can create visual representations of learning.  The web-based graphic editor is a powerful tool that is simple enough for students to realize their graphic design potential.  And as with all things Google, the product is easily stored in the Google Drive, shares with co-collaborators, and integrates effortlessly with the other GSuite tools.

So let’s talk about EdTech integration with Google Drawing.  Here are 5 ideas that you could test out tomorrow using Google Drive:

  1. Graphic organizers
  2. Collaborative Post Its
  3. Visual Notes / Sketchnotes
  4. Annotations of screenshots
  5. Infographic Creator

For an extra layer of fun…students could screencast over the final Google draw product.

Ask your instructional coach for other implementation ideas!

Replace a Vocabulary Worksheet With Other Fun Activities #antiworksheet


by Jackie Longan, DASD K-5 Instructional Coach 

Time to study vocabulary for the upcoming test?  Instead of making flashcards or answering a matching/fill-in-the-blank/multiple choice worksheet to practice, why not try some of these engaging, hands-on alternatives?


  • Charades:  What fun it would be to see our students and classmates acting out the meaning of photosynthesis, or teams showing parallel and perpendicular lines!
  • Name That Tune:  Have students create original songs based on the definition of words.  Content, poetry, and music all in one!
  • Pictionary: form teams and have students take turns drawing pictures of the definitions of words.
  • Skit or Dialogue:  Using as many vocabulary words as possible, have groups create original skits.  
  • Real-World Experience:  Ask yourself if the vocabulary could better be taught/reviewed with a real-world experience, or a virtual experience!  Making authentic connections helps students solidify the understanding of the words, and will encourage them to make associations with other words and information.


The extension possibilities with all of these ideas are endless, and many of the resources suggested in previous Downingtown Tech Chat posts are a great place to start!