Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hour of Code Week is Over but Coding Never Ends

Thousands of Westerville City Schools students enjoyed exploring coding activities during Hour of Code Week.  It was wonderful watching our students work through self-paced modules learning and discovering code or at least the building blocks of code.  If you missed this opportunity, no worries, the modules are still on the Hour of Code web site.  With Friday, December 18th being our last day before break and the opening day of the Star Wars movie, it might be a fun learning experience for your students to work through the Star Wars coding module. The modules are self-paced, easy to navigate and best of all you do not need to know code to enjoy working through the activities.

If you decide to introduce your students to the site for the first time, have them choose to build with Blocks. The site provides all the directions and navigation from there on. Have fun learning!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Revised Ohio Technology Learning Standards are open for public comment

The revised Ohio Technology Learning Standards are now open for public comment. Please click here to participate in the online review of the draft standards. Ohio educators from all content areas and the public are invited to participate. The survey will remain open through December 31, 2015.

We appreciate your feedback!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Connecting Outside the Classroom

How Tech Tools Help Us Learn Together Globally

A Walnut Springs student conducts an interview with a researcher at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK.  See below for the 7th grader's comments on the project and click the link to watch the interview.

In looking for an interview for my National History Day 
project, I contacted the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK.  I spent 30 minutes in a Skype Interview.  We used an iPad, a microphone, and a camera to record the session.  Through this process I experienced a connection from halfway around the world and I met a professional in the field of my research.  She shared interesting facts that I would not have found otherwise.

Brendan Smucker
7th Grade
Walnut Springs Middle School

Click here to view the interview:
Brendan Smucker conducts an interview with the Scott Polar Research Institute 

Hour of Code


For many people, computer programming, or "coding," is a topic that seems like a foreign language. In a lot of ways it is. There is an entire language that needs to be learned to be able to write a computer program that directs a computer, tablet or app what to do. However, its not as complicated as many make it out to be. In fact, has put coding in simple terms for everyone, starting at age 4, and also has "unplugged" tools to learn code if a computer is not available.

So what is the "Hour of Code?"

"Launched in 2013,® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science should be part of core curriculum, alongside other courses such as biology, chemistry or algebra." -

Hour of Code 2015

Essentially, the Hour of Code was created to break the misconceptions about coding, and get a new generation into creating online material. As our country moves away from the industrial age of manufacturing, and into the technological age of computers, understanding computers and how they work will be a highly marketable skill. The Hour of Code is a chance for people of all ages, races, genders, socioeconomic and computer skill levels to be introduced to one of the most needed areas of software development in a fun, differentiated learning environment.

Hour of Code Introduction

Hour of Code: Star Wars Introduction

Hour of Code: Minecraft Introduction

So if you haven't, check out, log in with your GAFE account (all teachers and students already have them) and start learning how to code. Its easy, its free, its educational, and most importantly, its enjoyable! The goal is for everyone to spend one hour playing with the games, but if its introduced to students, its almost guaranteed that they will continue to spend much more time on their own learning how to code. Give it a shot this week!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

If you are not using Google Maps to teach Geography, why not?

I found this short article, "Explore Machu Picchu in Google Maps and the Google Cultural Institute,"from Richard Byrne about Google Maps and more specifically Google Street View.  If you go to Google Street View you will find 360 degree views of locations from around the World.  If you have not looked at this, it will amaze you.  There are image collections from over 65 countries including Loch Ness, Northern Lights in Finland, Taj Mahal and even under the oceans of the World.  It is a phenomenal collection and paired with Google Maps a powerful resource to teach Geography.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

3 Tools to Video Conference

As we work through the Teaching and Learning Roadmap, I am continually looking for more opportunities to connect with the outside world.  Over the past several weeks I have seen Westerville teachers and students connecting with a weatherman in Texas, Marzetti Dressing and with a classroom in China. The connections have provided students with opportunities to ask questions of experts, gain new perspectives and hold conversations with other students from around the world.
Below is a list of things to remember when connecting to an outside resource and three excellent choices in our district to support your connections. These are not the only choices but we have tested these connections and they work well within our network. 

Things to Remember when connecting outside our district:
  1. Test your connection to the other site with microphone, speaker and projector before the video call.
  2. On a Chromebook the microphone is built in.
  3. On a desktop, an external microphone will be needed if your students will be interacting with the connection site. Contact your WCSOH EdTech Coach if you need a microphone.
  4. Mute your microphone when on the conference call. Unmute when necessary.
  5. Make sure the lights are on and sunlight is not behind you.
  6. Position the camera at eye level.
  7. Look at the camera when talking.
  8. Speak up
  9. Introduce yourself before talking.
  10. If more than one site, give your name and location before speaking.
  11. If more than one site, direct your question to a specific site.
  12. Set up a backchannel to communicate with the other group you are trying to connect with.

Three Great Tools to Video Conference
1. Google Hangouts -Works with our desktops(remember to connect an external microphone) and Chromebooks.  Check out "How Educators and Schools can Make the Most out of Google hangouts," for a great description of how teachers are using Hangouts with their classroom. After reading the article join the Google Hangouts in Education Community or Mystery Hangout.  Here you will find teachers from all over the world looking for classrooms to connect with and your students.  If you need assistance setting this up, contact your WCSOHEdTech Coach.

2. Skype in the Classroom - Skype only works with our desktop computers. Again, please remember to use a microphone if you plan to have your students talk during your connection.  Start by reading "Skype Connects Classrooms with Field Trips Around the World."  The article explains how classrooms are connecting around the world and gives links to make connections with teachers.  Check out Sypke Field Trips and Mystery Skypes when you are ready to begin Skyping with other classrooms.

3. Big Blue Button in Schoology - Big Blue Button is the video conference tool provided to all Schoology Enterprise districts. It works on both desktops and Chromebooks. Using Big Blue Button allows a teacher to set up conference calls with other Schoology classrooms.  The nice part is that students can enter the call on their own using their Chromebook but cannot create their own video conference call.  This allows the teacher to create small group calls and assign students to the group call. This is great for classroom to classroom collaboration. Here is directions how to use Schoology Big Blue Button. If you need help finding other Schoology teachers to connect with, contact your WCSOH EdTech Coach.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Using Maker Workshop Theory in the Math Classroom

I was reading through my Twitter account last night when I came across this article from Mindshift, "How Turning Math Into a Maker Workshop Can Bring Calculations to Life." The article is a phenomenal read about how a Middle School Math teacher turned her remedial math class into a thriving student empowered learning community. The most fascinating line from the article to me is the teacher saying, “I didn’t know how to do it, but I could teach them how to learn,” when explaining the process of transitioning her classroom to a Maker workshop. Later in the article she shares her findings from her classroom in a report about how to start a Fab Lab in the classroom.  If you have a moment this weekend, this is definitely worth a read.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


For years now, educators have discussed all the ways that Twitter is beneficial for the profession. From tweeting out class related posts, creating classroom hashtags for teacher-student collaboration and communication, and increasing a professional PLN, Twitter has opened the doors for information and communication for everyone. One way to use Twitter as a professional development tool is to get online and follow an "ed chat."

On specific days and times, teachers are using the hashtag (#) feature to filter Twitter's live feed and be a part of a professional conversation. Since twitter is a public forum, anyone can search and reply to any tweet that has been posted. By using a hashtag, the viewable feed is reduced to only posts that contain that specific hashtag.

Every Wednesday night at 9:00 PM (EST) #OhEdChat is conducted where a few moderators post a general question pertaining to a topic in education, and people from all over the state (or anywhere for that matter) can post their replies. While the hashtag can be used any time, and often is, Wednesday nights is a specific time when a lot of people are viewing those tweets and immediately responding to posts. Think of it as sitting in on a panel discussion from the comfort of your own home.

#OhEdChat is not the only professional ed chat that is on twitter. There are actually hundreds of scheduled discussions like this on Twitter on a regular basis. A teacher simply needs to know the hashtag being used and the time the chat is taking place to participate.

Ed chats are free, require no registration, and people can post comments, or simply view the responses that are being posted. A Twitter account is all that is needed to participate. Often teachers will "favorite" or "retweet" posts they find interesting to spark further discussion with their own Twitter followers, or to be able to revisit that post at a later time.

Twitter is continuing to be one of the easiest tools to create discussions, share ideas, and collaborate with other professional educators.

For a look at some of the archived conversations had on #OhEdChat, go to

For a list of other "ed chats" that are taking place on Twitter, click here.

Join the movement!

A live version of a teacher using one of the #edchats can be seen below.

#WestervilleWay #WCSWhereUBelong

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Going Incognito in Chrome

Did you know that Google Chrome allows you to view websites privately? If you open an "incognito window" the sites you view will not be associated with the account that is logged into Chrome. While there are a few reasons that people may use this at home, there are even better reasons to use it at school.

First lets talk about logging into Chrome v logging into Google. Each teacher (and student) has a Google account. In Westerville, these are the '' or the '' accounts that are used to access Google Drive and the documents stored there. These accounts can be used on any browser (i.e. Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer - although you should probably not use Internet Explorer since the company has stopped supporting it). When is opened in any browser, there is an option to log in with a Google account. This gives a person access to the items saved in Drive, and all of the documents associated with that account. This is different than logging into Chrome.

When a person is logged into the Chrome Browser, all of the bookmarks, extensions and Chrome apps associated with that account can be accessed. Typically a person logs into both Chrome and Google at the same time. When another person wants to access their Drive, the first person has to completely log out of Google. Often times a student asks a teacher for help with something and it helps to see what they are looking at.

Instead of logging the teacher out of Google completely and then logging a student in to view their account, open an Incognito window to allow the student to log into their Google account without accessing the teacher's information. The person logged into Chrome will still have the bookmarks and extensions available, but the Google account of the new user is now available. This quickly and easily allows a teacher to see what the student is viewing when logged in to be able to help answer questions about work, and then when the window is closed, the teacher is still logged in to their account.

Incognito mode is a great way to quickly open a browser page without the need to log out of your own account information.

Here is a quick video on how to open an Incognito window.

Here is a slightly more in depth video about how to properly use Incognito windows.

You can read about some general tips on how to privately view web pages here.

And finally, here is a Google article on how to use the Incognito window.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Uploading Files and Folders into Google Drive

In Westerville City schools, we are currently in year two of our Learning and Teaching Roadmap. The Roadmap is a plan put in place by the district to create a culture of 21st Century Learning. The plan looks at teaching and instructional practice as well as access and support in the implementation of technology. One technology resource we have adopted in Westerville is Google Apps for Education.  Google Apps for Education(GAFE) is an online productivity and organization tool provided to school districts through Google Education.  As we continue to use Google productivity tools, one of the first things teachers should do is upload their previously created files and folders to Google Drive. Doing this has several advantages. First, all your files will now be saved to the Google Cloud server.  This allows you to access your files from anywhere that has an internet connection.  Second, now that your files are online, you can take advantage of the wonderful sharing tool Google provides. Every Google file has a unique URL and can be shared with students, peers, community members or the public.  Third, by uploading your files you will now have easier access to sync and combine your work with other Google tools to build web sites, blogs, newsletters or anything else to support your teaching and learning. As always, contact your Ed Tech Coach if you have additional questions about how to upload your previously created files.

Read directions from the Google Drive tutorial here.

Additional Google Apps for Education tutorials can be found here.

Upload files and folders

You can upload files, images, and videos to Google Drive on the web so you can work on them anywhere and anytime.

Upload files

There are two ways to upload files to Google Drive.
Drag and Drop
If you’re using the latest versions of Chrome or Firefox, you can drag a folder from your desktop into Google Drive. You can also drag files directly into folders or subfolders.
Upload files using Google Drive
To upload files using Google Drive:
  1. Go to
  2. On the left, click New.
  3. Select File upload.
  4. Select the file you want to upload. To select multiple files, press Ctrl (PC) or Command (Mac) and click all the files to upload.
  5. You’ll see a box that shows the progress of your file upload. To open the file, click the filename. To close the box, click the X.

Upload folders

There are two ways to upload folders to Google Drive using Chrome. Uploading folders is not available on other browsers.
Drag and Drop folders
If you’re using the latest version of Chrome, you can drag a folder from your desktop into Google Drive. The folder, all subfolders, and files will start uploading right away.
Upload folders using the “NEW” button
To upload folders using the “NEW” button:
  1. Go to
  2. On the left, click New.
  3. Select Folder upload. If you see "Enable folder upload," you'll need to update Chrome to the latest version.
  4. Select one or more folders to upload.
  5. You’ll see a box that shows the progress of your folder upload. To open the folder, click the folder name. To close the box, click the X.

The WCS Learning and Teaching Roadmap (a teacher's perspective)

Read about the Westerville City Schools Learning and Teaching Roadmap from the perspective of Hawthorne Elementary ESL teacher, Chris Poynter.

Click here to see the article.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Comic Strips with Google Drawing/Slides

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to work with Jennifer Furey of ITSCO in Mrs. DeMooy's 5th grade classroom at Emerson Elementary. Jennifer led the students through a lesson creating comics using either Google Drawings or Google Slides.  Using comics is not only fun but it makes students think about how text and images work together to tell a story.  The finished comics can then be downloaded as PDF's or photo formats(PNG, JPG) to be inserted on a web site, tweeted out, added to a blog or embedded in a classroom newsletter. Thank you Jennifer for the great idea!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Google Smarty Pins Game

Students love learning with games.  Try out the new Google Smarty Pins Game! It’s a great Geography lesson.

Click the “Start a game now” button
Optional – Click “Select a category” to filter the type of questions. (History is my favorite)                 
When the game loads, you’ll see the question on the left.  Grab the pin and drag it to the correct location on the map.
Click the “Submit Answer” button.
If you submit the answer within 15 seconds, you get a bonus!
After 15 seconds, a hint will appear under the question.  .You start the game with 1000 miles. If you get the answer right, you keep all of your miles;  If you  “miss”,  the miles are subtracted from your total.  See the “Miles Remaining” gauge under the question. Keep answering questions until you win or until you use all of your miles. Have Fun!

PD gets rolling

Just as things start to settle down, I feel like I can finally start to do the job I was hired for. Today I spent my morning working with a teacher at Cherrington Elementary running through all of the bells and whistles of Read & Write for Google. This is available to all Westerville City School teachers and students. (Check it out below)

After spending the afternoon perusing through teachers classroom websites, I saw just how diverse our staff is when it comes to technology. Some teachers have websites that are updated daily, and have a multitude of course information, helpful tools for students and parents, calendars for classroom activities and assignments, and easy to use communication tools to reach the teacher. Other teachers have some cool looking websites that offer the basic contact information for the teacher as well as some information about the class. There are still a number of teachers who either don't have a website presence at all, or a very limited one at that (offers an email contact and a school address).

This is why I'm excited to be able to offer a classroom website work session for some of my teachers next week. Teachers often forget how out of the loop some parents feel after dropping their kids off at school and driving away. Many want to feel connected to the class, know what their student is working on, but don't want to be a helicopter parent. Classroom websites offer a wonderful solution for parents to connect to the class without being a burden on the teacher asking questions that they feel they should already know. As students get older, and can navigate the web, classroom websites become a valuable tool for them to be able to get any resources that the teacher has provided to be able to complete their assignments.

Classroom websites are a vital tool that make communication easier for the teacher, and more meaningful for the parents and students. If you haven't set up yours, make sure you contact your Technology Integration Coach for some help!

I'll be working with my teachers on School PointWeebly, and Google Sites, but there are lots of other website creators out there. Its worth the time to put one together today!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Inspiring Students through Genius Hour

Today I was honored to witness and take part in a wonderfully creative and innovative student experience facilitated by Mrs. Amici at Alcott. She expertly led her students through their first Genius Hour providing prompts, asking clarifying questions and encouraging her students to push further into creativity and innovation.
Genius Hour is said to have come from Google as part of their creative process. Google encourages their engineers to spend 20% of their time to think about and create whatever interests them. In the classroom, teachers can give students a set amount of time to explore what interests them. They provide students with journaling and brainstorming strategies, facilitate the creation of driving questions, support research skills and techniques and provide students a place to publish their work. Students have the freedom to explore any idea and create any project.
Below are students thinking about their innovations just before they were given time to share their ideas with each other. We used a combination of paper and pencil to record personal ideas and a shared Google Drawing to capture the student ideas during the share out.  The video is what Mrs. Amici used to introduce Genius Hour.

The Hour of Code will be happening December 7-13.  This is a wonderful and easy opportunity to get kids involved with coding skills as early as Kindergarten.  We have had several WCS classroom participate in past years with a high level of engagement from students.  You do not need any coding skills to participate, just a willingness to let students visit the website and participate!

It only takes one hour to do the Hour of Code lesson.  If you organize an official Hour of Code activity at their website, you will receive a gift card to iTunes, Amazon or the Windows Store as a thank you.  Register today!

In addition, there is a local opportunity for elementary teachers to be trained in the elementary K-5 curriculum, for free, at ITSCO on November 14, 2015 from 9am-3pm.

If you know of any teachers who would be interested in attending, please have them register here

For more information about the elementary program, please check out

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Voice Typing on Google

Lately, many people have been utilizing the tools that Read & Write for Google offers. Teachers have been using the talk to text feature for kids who have a need or desire to use the dictation tool to complete assignments. Did you know that this feature is also available in Google Docs?

Key points about voice typing in Google Docs:

1. You must use the Chrome web browser.
2. You must speak clearly.
3. A list of voice typing commands is available here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Blogging Polar Bear: Welcome!

Does YOUR district have a blogging polar bear? Ours does!!!

Check it out: The Blogging Polar Bear: Welcome!: Welcome to the first entry from The Blogging Polar Bear! As the mascot of Westerville School's Early Learning Center Preschool Program...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tech Walk

Have you ever heard of a Tech Walk? We often read about the components of a 21st Century classroom and creativity is one of the main ideas mentioned. How do we teach and support creativity? What does it look like in the school or classroom setting? This week I had the pleasure of seeing one strategy to support creativity in action. I was working in Mrs. Griffith's classroom helping to create habitat projects using Google Drawing when she stopped her kids and said to take a 3-5 minute Tech Walk.  The kids then stopped creating their Drawings and moved around the room looking at each others creations. They were able to quickly see each others work, gather ideas, ask questions, be reflective of their own work and take back new ideas to include in their project. It was an easy, quick, non-tech technique to support the creative process in her classroom and it was extremely effective. Nicely done Mrs. Griffith and her students!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why haven't you tried Google Drawing yet?

Google Drawing gets no respect. First, it is not listed as one of the first applications available in Drive. Users need to click the New button in Drive and More to find it.  Second, we tend to think of Docs and Slides as the go to productivity and presentation tools. I believe this comes from the years of working in Microsoft and making the transition from Word and PowerPoint. Third, users do not realize the tools available in Drawing. It does so much more than simply provide users with rudimentary drawing tools.

From Google Support: A list of things users can do with Drawing.
  1. Edit drawings online in real time with others and invite people to view your edits in real time.
  2. Chat with others who are editing your drawing, from within the drawings editor.
  3. Publish drawings online to the world as images, or download them in PDF, JPG or PNG formats.
  4. Insert text, shapes, arrows, scribbles, and images from your hard drive or from the Web to enhance a diagram or painting.
  5. Lay out drawings precisely with alignment guides, snap to grid, and auto distribution.
  6. Insert drawings into other Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides using the web clipboard.
Here are a few examples users can use in their classroom.
  1. Use Drawing as a digital whiteboard.  Create the Drawing, share it with your students and use it to create a Sticky Note board, a graphic organizer, a timeline, or whatever you and your students can think of.
  2. Use Drawing to annotate a screenshot.  Capture a web page or diagram from the web, insert it in Drawing and use the text, shapes and arrow tools to annotate the captured photo. 
  3. Create hyperlinks on a photo or diagram.  Insert the diagram or create a drawing. Using the Polyline or Shape tool, draw a shape around the area where you want the hyperlink. Insert the link to the webpage you want to add. Change the shape color and line color to transparent. You have now created an invisible hyperlink for students to click on to find more information. Even better, your students can create hyperlinks to connect web sites and additional Drawings to present their work on a topic.
There are an endless number of ideas that can be created in Drawing. I hope you find Drawing to be as cool as I do and it becomes a valuable tool in your classroom.