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.