Kent ISD Summer Ed Tech Workshops

image of workshop icons

Kent ISD is offering a number of ed tech workshops this summer so that teachers can build and develop for the upcoming year. Of course, we will be keeping things fun and flexible. Check out the lineup below – dates and links with details & registration are included. Contact us with any questions.

  • Google Drive (Don’t Let Your Google Drive You Crazy) ~ Led by Ron Houtman
  • Build for Blended Learning Workshop ~ Led by Kent ISD’s Ed Tech Team
    • August 25 (registration) Choose morning, afternoon, or both.

Presentation Interaction

Interactive presentation tools are useful for engaging audiences and can be used in many ways. As with all things, educators should be aware of the features as well as consider whether or not it is the best tool for the job.

Many of you have likely heard about Google Slides’ recent Q and A feature update. If not, you can image about Q and A featurego to this overview from Richard Byrne. Basically, Q and A allows a presenter to invite audience members to submit questions or comments and then vote those up or down. The presenter can then respond as needed or use the archived record for follow up.

One thing I discovered with Andrew is that a presenter cannot delete a comment, and students have the option to post anonymously. You can see the potential for trouble there. Using this feature could be a good opportunity to have conversations with students about the purpose and expectations around digital interaction, and it is probably best to be aware of what may occur when you give it a whirl with students.

As always, I encourage people to think about the potential value of an instructional choice. Is it worth the time needed for students to pull out devices and enter the link? Is a slideshow the best option for your objective? Are there other ways for students to inquire and interact? These are questions to consider. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying that we should be intentional about it.

Another tool that offers a similar feature is GoSoapBoxand it provides additional ways for a presenter/class facilitator to engage an audience meaningfully as well. Whatever is chosen, it should result in a deeper learning experience, and it shouldn’t be cumbersome, time-consuming, or distracting. If you have examples of what is working for you, please share with us and others.

#google-apps, #presentation-tools

Edify Adds New Features

Edify, the learning platform developed by Kent ISD and Kickstand, has recently added some new elements that will help teachers better ascertain student understanding.

One change is the addition of highlighting and matching question types. Highlighting requires students to highlight portions of text passages, very similarly to M-STEP and other “next generation” question types. Matching questions provide options for grouping multiple items within categories, and they include multi-select functions as well. Both of these allow teachers to require an explanation and add to a suite of question types that make it more difficult for students to bluff their way through an assessment. As has always been the case, all questions in Edify can be aligned to standards.

Other recent additions include enhanced organization or user resources, an improved assessment generator page, and improvements with grading workflow. See more about recent updates to get the full details.

Edify is free to use for all Kent County public schools, and you can contact us if you want more information. For those outside Kent County, contact Kickstand at this link. Wherever you are, keep striving to know as much as you can about students’ learning and support them accordingly.

#edify, #educational-technology

Drawing for Assessment

The Gist: This post focuses on the Show Your Work question type available in the formative assessment website Formative. With this question type, teachers can provide a background for students to draw on or annotate (e.g. a grid or text passage) or just provide a blank space for responding to a prompt. When students are responding, teachers can view the live results and/or choose to display them to the whole class for formdiscussion, review, or analysis. See the bottom of this post for a screenshot of what that looks like. This supports all levels of formative assessment, and is fairly simple to facilitate.

Here is a portion of a workshop I led at last week’s MACUL conference. It is a guide that takes you through the steps from getting started to responding to results.

More Details: One of the most effective ways to determine students’ proficiency on a given topic is for them to demonstrate it visually. This has traditionally been done through paper assignments or on classroom surfaces (whiteboard, interactive board, etc.), but those examples can be difficult for teachers/peers to view and respond to. The Show Your Work option in Formative allows for a quick way to ascertain student understanding while providing students some creative license in how they represent their thinking. Teachers can also respond readily either through the system or in person.

There is much more to explore. This is just one tool to use as part of a more comprehensive approach to assessment. Check it out and see how it works for you.

form 2

Screenshot of live result example

#educational-technology, #formative-assessment

More Meaningful Math

In order to understand math, you need to interact with it. Desmos and Geogebra may be the best tools for bringing math to life, and I want to share some features in these systems that make it easy for teachers and students to use them effectively. See below for more:
Desmos (online graphing calculator on steroids)

  1. Search the pre-made activities on a wide variety of topics. You can post links for students to access without accounts, or you can sign up and tweak the activities for your purposes.
  2. When students have accounts, teachers have access to an impressive dashboard to use when facilitating activities. Here is a guide for the steps involved.
  3. Here is a general learning guide for Desmos that I have used when working with teachers.

Geogebra (a geometry and algebra platform built for action)

  1. It also has a library of pre-made activities with links that you can provide for students. You can copy existing activities and modify them with a free account. (the editing features are a little bit cumbersome, unfortunately).
  2. Similar to Desmos, teachers can create groups (AKA classes) in which participants can complete tasks, provide feedback, and more. See this help guide for more details.
  3. Here is a sample activity I created to help provide opportunities for M-STEP tasks without “test prepping”.

There is definitely much more to explore with both of these tools, but this is enough to infuse any math class with some boom. Get them acting, talking, and exploring. Repeating question sets is not the answer for building mathematicians; nor is it the way to excite and ignite.

#desmos, #educational-technology, #geogebra, #mathematics

Student-led TED in Your School?

On February 27, students from East Grand Rapids High School and Forest Hills High Schools are hosting a TEDx event. You can see more details about the program and the participating students in this School News Network article. This is an excellent example of students engaging beyond the classroom, and each of the speakers will undoubtedly get a big life boost from the experience. I had the thought that others might want to do something similar in their schools, so I thought I’d share some ideas and resources on how that might happen.


One idea is to start a TED-Ed club. Within these clubs, students can view and discuss TED talks as well as work towards developing their own. If you want to know more about what these are and what it takes to host your own, check out this list of FAQ’s.

You may be thinking that motivating students to do such things is unlikely, and I have heard of clubs faltering or disbanding. Typically, support and inspiration from adults is required, especially if a formal TEDx event is going to happen. I recommend a small team of adult leaders so that the responsibility isn’t all on one person. Also, many local citizens have given talks in various TEDx events, and they would be great partners or guest speakers. See this list of TEDx events, which maps all events past and future. You may be able to connect with one of the speakers.

Schools and teachers could also incorporate the TED structure in curriculum or presentation activities.This would increase the level of authenticity and perhaps get students intrigued about the format. There are also a number of lessons that utilize TED talks as a center point, which can expose students to the format.

Whatever level of exposure is provided, it is certain that the TED brand has staying power, and it is one of many ways we can empower, embolden, and enlighten our students. Thus, it is worth exploring.

#education, #educational-technology, #ted

Get Prepped for MACUL 2016


Michigan’s most robust educational technology conference is in Grand Rapids this year, March 9-11. If you have not signed up yet, early registration ends February 23. After that, the price goes up $50. You can register here.

Signing up is step one. There are many ways to make your experience more than just an interesting series of sessions. Here a few ideas for you to consider:

1. ) Plan – Generate ideas about what you want to get out of the conference. Based on that, choose sessions and events that address those ideas. If you are going with colleagues, create a system for shared notes around your common goals. Make sure people record links and thinking. You could use this group notes template or something similar.

2.) Reach Out – Many smart, inspiring people will be there, and they will talk, Tweet, or communicate with you if you are open to it. Ask presenters questions, engage with people in sessions; that’s often when the most meaningful experiences occur. Note, I encourage you to write about those experiences in your notes too.

3.) Get Involved – You can volunteer to help with the many tasks required to run such a conference, you can bring a group of students for the student showcase, and/or you can submit to do a Lightning Talk. Here are links to more on each of those: volunteer, student showcase, Lightning Talk (deadline for Lightning Talks is Jan. 30).

Even if you can’t make it, you can access resources and responses using the hashtag #Macul16This is just a shortlist of the possibilities. The rest is up to you.



Google Apps Training Resources

Google has a robust set of training courses that any Google user can access for free. The courses are organized into segments that incorporate reflection, goal setting, and classroom application in the study of Google tools. This means that individuals that work through the lessons can contemplate what they want to accomplish with technology, not just learn what buttons to click. Go here to start the fundamentals or advanced training. You can also access training based on specific applications and devices here.

These courses, or components of them, could be used to individualize training for educators, and I recommend that they be used in conjunction with content or grade level staff meetings. In that arrangement, people can build the skills they need and then work together to build more substantial integration into their curriculum. Administrators could ask people to submit their goals or progress as a way to ensure people are participating (they should also provide contract time for doing this!).

Of course, individuals could access these as well, and it could be a good way to get new teachers acclimated or struggling teachers to a greater level of comfort. People even have the option to become Google certified. No matter what, it’s great to have a free option available.

#google-apps, #google-for-education, #professional-development

Sign up for Digital Assessment Series Pt. 2: Transformative Assessments

Our second of three Digital Assessment Series begins Tuesday, November 03. This series is called Transformative Assessment Tools and Strategies, and it will be building off the content from part one (note: you do not need to have taken part 1 to take this).

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We will explore ways in which you can utilize assessments that were previously impossible without technology.  Each week we will learn about a different tool and explore how students can represent their abilities while thinking about how it can be applied in the classroom.

Registration is free and participants can attend face-to-face or virtually.

Click here to learn more and register

#assessment, #blended-learning, #educational-technology

Come View, Think, and Discuss With Us

Kent ISD is partnering with Celebration Cinema North to bring you a screening of the film Most Likely to Succeed. We want people to explore what is happening in the world of education as well as what is possible. To do so, we are inviting the community to view the film on October 20 at 6:30 pm.  After the screening, we will shift to a panel of local educators, business leaders, and students. They will be sharing their experiences and responses to the film, and the audience will have an opportunity to chime in and ask questions.

See the flyer below for more details. Click this registration link to sign up or click on the flyer to go to the registration page. The event is free, but we are requiring people to register so that we can ensure we don’t exceed capacity. Check it out, clear the calendar, and join us for an entertaining and thought-provoking night.


#film, #kent-isd, #mlts, #pbl