Category: Explorations

hackGVSU – Coming April 14

hackGVSU – Coming April 14


The eLearning and Emerging Technologies department invites you to the “hackGVSU” event at the main campus of Grand Valley State University.

This will be held on Saturday, April 14. The goal is to provide opportunities for students and teams to work together on programming projects. There are HTML, LTI, and REST API integration possibilities with Blackboard providing training on these during the event.

More information is available at:

Build Your Own Interactives

Build Your Own Interactives

In many schools, especially at the elementary level, it is common for students to be using tech for core skill building. For example, they might be using Zearn to go through math practice at a level that is personalized based on pre-assessment results. This can be beneficial, but some research suggests that so-called drill and kill types of platforms might not be best and may even have negative effects on student learning. See this research page from Liz Kolb’s Triple E Framework site for more on that

I also believe that students can be doing much more than practice problems with the devices they are using. So, I have been exploring ways to design activities that involve application of learning and using tech to build or create based on the concepts being taught. This may sound a bit daunting, but here are two examples that are fairly simple to set up:

  1. Google Slides Place Value Interactive. You can add background elements, like a cartoon field, that won’t move by editing the Slide Master (how to edit Slide Master in Google Slides). When students load the link, they can make a copy, or teachers can assign it through Classroom as a copy for each student. Then they interact and build.
  2. Google Doc Array and Area Activity. This prompts students to build some simple layouts in Geogebra and then asks questions that farmers would actually have to ask when building a fence. Like in the previous activity, students need to apply their understanding. They also have links to reference in case they need it (e.g. perimeter and area).

These are not the most polished or amazing, but they incorporate some complex thinking and some personal interaction as well. Take a look, make copies for yourself, and modify as you see fit. Please share any ideas or questions with us so we can learn from you as well.

Spring Tech Ideas

Jacaranda tree in bloom

It is the season of testing, which means many of us are experiencing reduced access to tech. It is also likely that students are starting to get a bit squirmier than normal, and creativity may be needed to engage them meaningfully. Here are some ideas to consider – all of which can be accomplished with minimal devices:

1.) Visit and search “nest” or “birth”. You can easily find a live cam view of animals with their young (or soon to be young). This could be used for a writing prompt, exploration of geography, measurement, and much more. Plus, all it takes is a computer and a projector.

2.) Take a picture a day of a growing plant (or anything going through a spring transformation) and then combine the images into a looping GIF file using The images could be taken using a classroom computer with webcam, a student or teacher phone, or even a regular old digital camera. You could store the images in a shared folder for people to access when they have the opportunity to create the GIF.

3.) Record students doing stuff – audio or video of students speaking written work, enacting a scene, debating a point, or explaining a concept. For audio, you might try using, which will work on any Chromebook or computer with a microphone. For video, you can save space on your device by uploading it to Google Drive (see this guide for simple recording) where you can share it immediately.

No matter how you record, students will be moving and likely taking it a little more seriously because others may hear or see it. It may be a little tricky keeping everyone on task, but it is not impossible.

As always, Ron, Andrew, and I are here to help you plan and/or implement these and any other ed tech ideas you may have. Contact us at

PD opportunity – “AP Computer Science Principles”

PD opportunity – “AP Computer Science Principles”

Want to offer AP Computer Science at your school? 

The Michigan Math Science Centers Network, in partnership with, is bringing professional learning to educators to implement AP Computer Science Principles for high school students.

According to the latest data from The Office of Innovation and Improvement, computer science education is becoming critical:

“By the year 2018, more than half of all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields. And those remaining STEM jobs will almost all require significant computational skills. If we want our students to be prepared to thrive in this environment of rapid economic change, we need to start preparing them right now”

For more information on this upcoming professional development opportunity, please visit the MI Coding website , contact the program coordinators or download this informative flyer.
Open is Awesome – Using OERs with #GoOpen

Open is Awesome – Using OERs with #GoOpen

The US Department of Education (USeD) has identified support for the production and adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) as a strategic priority.  As we see digital resource availability and usage increase in our classrooms, we still have some issues to overcome before OER can be a larger contributor to innovation in education.

From ongoing research, we still see limited reuse and repurposing of OER by educators, manifested by a tendency to use OER as supplementary rather than primary materials. In addition, both lack of awareness and lack of digital and pedagogical skills on the part of educators contribute to limited utilization.6555467293_abe94016b5_m

As a practical application, teachers don’t have to create all of their course content from scratch, they can add and import OERs into their courses housed in a Learning Management System like Edify, supported by the Kent ISD.

As educators, how can we tap into these vast OER collections that will help our learners develop the skills required in the 21st century?   In the next few months, you will notice a bigger push by USeD to bring awareness to what OER are, where you can find them, how they can be used, and how to get your educators trained in using them.

In the meantime, if you or your district would like to know more about how to use OER in your teaching and learning practice, please contact Ron Houtman at Kent ISD for custom professional learning and consulting around this exciting area of education.



New Primary Source Sets for Education

New Primary Source Sets for Education

If you’ve not visited the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) in a while, you really should take a look.   The DPLA just released its second group of Primary Source Sets about topics in US history, literature, and culture, along with new features for navigating this growing project. DPLA

DPLA Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop their critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources.

Each set includes an overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide.

These are a fantastic way to use primary source materials as you continue to create your blended learning courses, and engage your students in their own inquiry, discovery and making sense of their findings.


NovaNow Isn’t Just for Secondary

NovaNow Isn’t Just for Secondary

Kent ISD has received requests for more professional learning opportunities focused on elementary education. With this in mind, we wanted to make sure that NovaNow included sessions specifically for elementary educators. Our Elementary Strand features conversations led by elementary teachers who want to discuss innovation at the elementary level. The following is a list of the conversations that are a part of the NovaNow Elementary Strand:

  • Student Led, Teacher Gut Ache…but it is SO WORTH IT!
  • Better Spaces and Places
  • Star Wars, Makers Clubs and Take Apart Labs…OH MY!
  • Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom
  • Are You Ready? Go from teaching lessons to creating experiences.

In addition to the conversations listed above, NovaNow will include 21 more sessions targeted towards all educators, including elementary.

If you are an elementary educator and want to learn how to bring innovation to your classroom, then join us at this year’s NovaNow event. NovaNow will be held at Kent Innovation High on February 5 & 6.

Click here to learn more and register for NovaNow