How Google Glass Can Help Students Make Better Music

By: Kristen Hicks
This post first appeared on on November 26, 2013.
There’s little room left to wonder if Google Glass will change higher education. It already has. Several of the earliest Google Glass explorers have been academic faculty eager to apply the new technology to higher education, meaning that even before it’s reached the general market, we’ve been provided a glimpse into some of the ways it can be used in education.
When Cynthia Johnston Turner heard about the Google Glass explorer program, she was quick to envision the ways it could transform her conducting class. She shared some of her visions in the form of a Twitter application to join the program, using the hashtag #IfIHadGlass:

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It worked, and she became one of the first people with access to Google Glass.
The students in her conducting class have reaped the benefits of the new technology. “The conducting class is a doing class,” she explained, “so it’s a hands-on, active class.” The ability to see a video of themselves gives students extra insight into what they can improve.
Johnston Turner was able to create videos of students in her class before gaining access to Glass, but the speed and ease with which she’s able to do so now is considerably improved. Instead of the hour it would take to download the videos from her old camera and send them to students, she can now have videos posted to the class’ Google+ group within a few minutes.
In addition, she’s now able to zoom more easily and move throughout the class to make adjustments while recording. This extra freedom of movement means that her students can easily get a glimpse of the effect of the adjustments made during class.
Improving the day-to-day class experience is an important use of the product, but Johnston Turner has bigger ideas about ways Google Glass can aid in conducting and composing. “I’m also interested in how the Internet and digital technology are changing our brains and changing how we think,” she told me.
For one thing, Glass could enable conductors and musicians to forgo music stands and sheet music during a performance. “One of our original ideas before getting Glass was to embed a condensed score within it and conduct rehearsals or concerts from it,” she explains. The size of the screen poses a limitation on that right now, but rather than seeing that as a deterrent, Johnston Turner views it as an opportunity to re-think how music notation works altogether.
When Google presented current explorers the opportunity to recommend the next wave of Glass explorers, Johnston Turner suggested a few of her musical colleagues on campus.  With several musicians and composers at Cornell now using Glass, they’re able to tackle collaborative projects.
According to Johnston Turner, one of the other Google Glass explorers, Kevin Ernst, “is in the process of thinking about and writing a piece of music for Glass, so we’ll be reading it from Glass, interacting with Glass and performing it wearing Glass.”
From enabling improvements in the student experience to inspiring new approaches to how conductors and musicians interact, Johnston Turner has made good use of her early access to Google Glass. While the uses of the technology in varying subjects will differ, it’s clear that wearable technology is poised to change what education looks like for many.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an insatiable interest in learning and experiencing new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring innovations and untraditional approaches to education for edCetera.

Improving Museum Education: Get Big or Get Out?

Museums serve two main functions: preserve collections and educate people. These can vary, of course. Some science centers, for example, do not keep “collections” the same way an art or natural history museum does. But the goal of that first function is pretty straightforward and measurable, even as the second has become trickier for museums since the Age of the Internet. When it comes to learning things, why should people choose museums over the internet?
Most museums’ answers have centered around the idea of authenticity: museums provide access to real things. Museums offer a variety of ways to access these real things and educational experiences to accompany them – from exhibits to educational programs to mobile museums. But a convention on the future of museum education suggests that if museums want a place in education, they need to get big or get out.
In a recent blog post, the Center for the Future of Museums (CFM) compared the educational impact of museums with that of internet offerings, from TED talks to Khan Academy: “The TED conference has served over a billion videos since 2006, the year they started a small experiment to put videos online.  The National Gallery of Art would have to operate for 217 years to have a billion visitors, but is a TED talk as good as a museum visit? Is any online experience as good? There’s a lot of doubt among museum leaders that online experiences can be as authentic, as impactful, as a visit to a museum.”
Perhaps the takeaway message is that museums need to shift the focus of their educational efforts away from pure facts and more towards contextualized learning or affective experiences – “you had to have been there” moments. I think about my own museum experiences, which range from going to the zoo with smartphone in hand so I can read the kind of information I find interesting (phylogenetic relationships between animals – something that never makes it onto the tiny signs!) to being completely absorbed by the art and text on the wall in a Gauguin exhibit that’s telling me a story  would never have been interested in otherwise.
“The Khan Academy, a free, online educational website of which Smarthistory is a part, reaches ten million learners a month,” notes CFM’s blog. “MIT’s Open Courseware project served 100 million people in its first decade and their goal is to reach 1 billion learners in the next ten years. … Museums accomplish wonderful things in society, but a billion learners—that’s the kind of dream we need to have.”
Do you go to museums? Why or why not? What kind of experiences do you have or would like to have?

Video: The Promise of Digital Learning

Sal Kahn begins this new video by explaining all that is exciting about digital learning. He says technology is “fundamentally altering how we think about the learning. The tech, somewhat ironically, is making the classroom more human and allowing the teacher to express more creativity, form deeper bonds with their students and frankly move up the value chain.” But this video is not only about what is exciting but about bringing evidence to what the promises made by digital technology  to transform the education system.

Motivating, more data, personalization, self-paced, ownership, equalization, extended time, great teaching, learner profiles and working conditions are the ten benefits of digital learning highlighted in this video. These benefits are only the start of unlocking the promise of digital learning.

If you haven’t seen the other videos in this series, find them all in our Learning Videos category or  at Digital Learning Now!’s video library. All the videos from Digital Learning Now! align with the Smart Series white papers published over the past year.

Digital Learning Now! is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

20+ Apps We’re Thankful For This Year

As we sit down with family and friends to celebrate all the blessings and gifts we are so fortunate to have in our lives, we just can’t forget the apps! No Thanksgiving dinner in the EdTech world would be complete without at least once around the table, sharing a favorite app or tech tool tool that has brought us joy throughout the year. Here are ours. We’d love for you to add yours, too!

  1. Google Drive: Tom says – we live in Google Drive–it has changed how we write and work. My geek secret: I celebrate little life altering improvements like the way docs searches for and adds links.  Geek secret #2, last week I had dinner with Jonathan Rochelle, the dude that invented docs, sold it to Google, and continues to serve as a product manager.  (+1 from Susan, Aimee, Alison, and Jessica)

  1. Edmodo:  Tom says – Over the last five years, it’s been amazing to watch 29 million teachers and students connect on Edmodo. It has made learning more collaborative and teaching less isolating.   (+1 from Marie – the one app it would pain me to see my teacher friends do without.)

  1. Facebook: –Karen says – Facebook has changed the way we connect and share our travels, meals, favorite moments, challenges, triumphs, and thankful moments.

  1. iPhone Calendar: Caroline says – iPhone calendar  With a full schedule, being able to open one app and plan out my day is essential. Linking phone numbers makes one touch dialing for calls easy, and having the location linkable makes getting directions even easier. Setting reminders of how to use my time each day and block off work and personal time has helped me find a great balance daily. Using iCloud, I appreciate the ability to also sync and share calendars across devices and with multiple people. Its been beneficial for our small business and in my personal life running a family calendar.

  1. Flight Track App:  Caroline says – Another family favorite would be Flight Track App that allows me to know the exact location and landing time of every flight no matter what airline. Being in a family full of frequent travelers at least weekly I use the app to track a loved one and reduce time spent in the cell phone waiting lot.

  1. Instagram: Carri says – Instagram & add-on photography apps. There are worse addictions than Instagram and the first stage of recovery is admitting I have a problem, right? Truth is, Instagram rules. It fulfills my insatiable appetite for cataloguing my own experiences and capturing fleeting moments with my children. And, quite surprisingly, I’m a part of this whole creative community that I didn’t know existed out there. It’s funny how different forms of social media fulfill different things. For me, Facebook is mostly personal; Twitter is almost all professional; Instagram is where I go to play. My favorite add-on photography apps right now are RhonnaDesigns, Lumie, Afterlight, VSCOCam, and A Beautiful Mess. See you on IG! (most of the team would strongly agree – it was a battle to see who claimed this a favorite app.)

  1. Pinterest: Jessica says – If you’re not currently on Pinterest, I highly recommend you go sign up now. Like right now, before you continue on to number 8! Pinterest provides a place to organize all of your favorite recipes, home design ideas, fashion inspiration, holiday traditions, travel plans, and most importantly – educational tools. There are millions of pins waiting for you to explore, and you can even pin directly from a website if you see something you want to save for later. Check out our boards for inspiration and get pinning! (+1 from Caroline)

  1. IFTTT: Allie says – IFTTT (if this then that) app – this app lets you combine multiple digital functions with one simple “recipe.” For example, I can set it up so that any time I add a new contact to my phone it will automatically send them a “nice to meet you” email. There are tons of recipes to pick from, or you can make your own. When you are trying to organize at least 7 other people beyond yourself, a little extra help is appreciated.

  1. Google Maps: Megan says – Google Maps has gotten me out of trouble on more than one occasion. “Not all who wander are lost” and for those who really are lost…there is googlemaps. (+1 for Tom here too – just don’t ask Karen about how big a phone bill is after using Google Maps around Europe.)

  1. Zite: Alison says – Zite has taken the place of my newspaper, especially on Sunday mornings. Where I used to sit with my coffee and read through the sections, I now open up Zite and click through all my favorite topics, with customized content tailored to my interests!

  1. Hootsuite: The entire Getting Smart team spends more time than we should probably admit on Hootsuite. It how we tweet together and learn about the world.

  1. Penultimate: Aimee Bartis says – Penultimate -I’ve gone paperless with my daily calendar and to do list with Penultimate and my fine tip stylus from adonit!

  1. Find My iPhone: Marie Bjerede says So this is not creepy at all (ok, maybe more appropriate for Halloween than Thanksgiving) but my life is SO much easier when I use Find My iPhone as a stalker app to see when family members are heading home so I can coordinate logistics like dinner without interrupting them or causing texting-while-driving errors.  Also great for finding each other when we are (lost) in a foreign city (or our home city for that matter – there was this one time the family was coming to pick me up after a conference and all the streets were closed off, traffic was like a parking lot, and the Rose Parade about to start …we tracked each other’s locations until we met up.) And since it is already on all our devices, no downloads or explicit action is needed to make it work.  (+2 from Adam- Since I can’t install a tracking device on my kids, this is a great substitute, as their iPhones are always on them, and Allie appreciates being able to find both Tom and his missing devices when he’s on the road).

  1. Flipboard: Susan Oxnevad says – FlipBoard – I love the visual display and enjoy having information come to me in this format. (+1 from Adam, Didn’t realize really what a visual learner I was until I discovered Flipboard).

  1. Sketcher: Winifred Kehl says – Sketcher – a great little sketching program so I can always draw on the go.

  1. Twitter: Susan Lucille Davis says – I’ll have to say Twitter.  It’s my lifeline to the world of learning.  I connect with a dream team of colleagues and learn from them every day.  I also connect to make appointments, see what’s happening with my step-daughter, and venture into new communities via #chats. (+1 from Adam, I don’t actually tweet much, but Twitter is my aggregator of content from my favorite people and organizations).

  1. Adam Renfro says – is a nifty little app that I use every day to track progress.  It’s a simple visual motivator. Mindboom was awesome, too, but once my habits were established, I needed something a little more lightweight.

  1. Viber: Courtney Hanes says –  I love Viber. I discovered this free texting app last summer while traveling in Australia. With Viber you can text, call, and send pictures for free to anyone in the world. Many of my go to favorite apps have been mentioned here, (Google Drive for editing and collaborating with students and colleagues, Pinterest for finding amazing quotes and images for my online class, and for fun, Twitter for learning and sharing with colleagues near and far, Instagram is an App discovered about a year ago. I love taking pictures and exploring. IG allows me to be creative. Also my oldest son is now on too, and it has been wonderful to see his online personality shine through. It’s also led to terrific conversations about online safety — who to follow and allow to follow, what’s share worthy, comments that are great vs not such a good idea, etc ), but I’ll add two that help me stay connected and relaxed.

  1. GeniusScan: The team loves this app. GeniusScan is a free app that works as a scanner. Take a picture of your document, paper, receipt, etc., crop, enhance and send! So easy, why would you even need a scanner anymore?

  1. Stocking Stuffers:

  • Survivalcraft – Minecraft for your smartphone! So you can take your Minecraft addiction with you.
  • Poetry – spin for a playlist of poems in two rando categories
  • TideGraph – so you know when you can walk on the beach
  • NPRaddict – find a station and listen anywhere
  • CNET – for all those gadget updates
  • Bloglovin – Great reader now that Google Reader is dead (Tom uses Ustart)
  • Capture – Let’s you record, edit and add music to videos to post straight to Youtube WITHOUT from your mobile device with having to upload!
  • Foldify – looking for something fun to keep the family entertained? Download this app and make customized 3D paper characters and structures all weekend long!
  • iHandy Level – always have a level in your pocket with this app. Love hanging pictures now!

What apps are you thankful for?

38 Elementary & Middle Schools Worth Visiting

Recently we chronicled 35 High Schools Worth Visiting. That led to a request for a similar compilation of inspiring elementary and middle schools. Far from exhaustive, our list includes schools that achieve extraordinary results, create powerful learning experiences, and/or have created innovative technology blends.

K-8 Schools

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 10.58.09 PM1. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA) operates six formerly low performing Detroit K-8 schools, including Nolan K-8 (pictured), that share an innovative platform and school model. See Building Buzz in Detroit for more on this must visit turnaround revolution.

2. Burns Elementary/Middle School, also part of the EAA (and formerly the lowest performing school in Michigan), is operated by Matchbook Learning (profiled here and featured here) also using the Buzz platform with Compass Learning, ST Math, and ALEKS.

3. Arthur Ashe Charter School in New Orleans (profiled here), is operated by FirstLine Schools. The lab rotation model incorporates Achieve 3000, Accelerated Reader, Think Through Math and ST Math.

4. Aspire ERES Academy in Oakland (profiled here) uses ST Math, i-Ready, Achieve 3000, Accelerated Reader, and Think Through Math in a station rotation model. With 37 California schools, Aspire is one of the nation’s highest performing low-income school systems.

5. Aspire opened two schools in Memphis this year that will become K-8. Nicknamed CODE Aspire (profiled here and here), the schools offer a “rich STEM-focused education, individualized technology rich learning opportunities, and explicit instruction in computer coding skills.” The rotation model features i-Ready and DreamBox Learning.

6. Avenues: The World School is the NYC anchor to Chris Whittle’s international network. Teachers at the elite private school use a combination of flipped classroom and station rotation strategies. They make extensive use of open content. eduClipper is crafting a next-generation platform for qualitative social assessments.

7. Da Vinci Innovation Academy is a project-based NGLC winning school in Hawthorne, California (profiled here). Students usually spend two days per week on campus and have another optional day on campus for electives.

8. Burley School is a Chicago literature, writing and technology magnet school. Visitors see students discussing, reading, thinking, exploring, questioning, experimenting, creating, and collaborating. Students have access to iPads and laptops and a full art and music program.

Middle Schools

9. Summit Denali is a new Silicon Valley middle school that will grow into a 6-12 model. There are 12 Components of this celebrated NGLC winning school model and platform. Like the EAA, Denali is great example of a network that has an innovative platform and school model and continue to iterate on both. The open Activate Instruction platform dishes individualized skill building playlists to prepare students to standards-aligned project-based work.

10. Bate Middle School, Danville Kentucky, (profiled here) is a great turnaround story. The staff developed innovation plan focused on challenge-based learning and positive habits of mind. Check out this great trip report from superintendent Carmen Coleman.

11. Incubator School is a NGLC winning LAUSD flex middle school (profiled here) using Think Through Math, Mangahigh, TenMarks, Newsela, NoRedInk, StudySync, and Read180. The day includes roughly a third online, a third in projects, and a third in advisory.

12. Messalonskee Middle School in Maine, students have Learning Goal Time (LGT) every day, with a full two hours once a week to work on assignments and get the extra help they need. Chris Sturgis has featured the school on CompetencyWorks and in this brief.

13. Blanca Alvarado Middle School, Alpha Public Schools, (profiled here) opened last year in San Jose. Alpha uses Compass Learning, Achieve 3000, and ST Math content on the Education Elements platform with MAPS and MasteryConnect assessments. Students spend about 50% of their time in the station rotation model online.

14. James Madison Middle School in Oakland (profiled here) is one of the blended learning pilot projects supported by the Rogers Family Foundation and Education Elements. Madison teachers use a two-group in-class rotation model. Math content includes DreamBox, Mangahigh, and Khan Academy.

15. Quest to Learn is a NYC game-based charter middle school (profiled here). Game-based content includes Gamestar Mechanic, Atmosphir, and Mangahigh.

16. Ranson IB middle school (@RansonIBMS) is part of Charlotte Mecklenburg‘s Project LIFT to create an Opportunity Culture and extend the reach of the best teachers. A great blog from Romain Bertrand (@htdcompletely) outlines five lessons from their efforts to personalize math instruction and notes that “Compass Learning Odyssey or Dreambox Learning help you better know what each of your students really need.”

Elementary + Middle Pairs

17. High Tech High in San Diego (profiled here) is probably the best example of a high-engagement cohort model secondary school. Teachers at feeder schools Explorer Elementary and High Tech Middle frame great projects and expect students to show what they know on a regular basis. There are also great HTH middle schools in North San Diego County and Chula Vista (featured here).

18. Reynoldsburg Schools (East of Columbus Ohio) include a K-12 STEM network that includes Baldwin Road Junior High and Herbert Mills Elementary and Summit Road Elementary.

19. Hannah Ashton Middle School in Reynoldsburg (profiled here) is a blended model powerd by Education Elements and Edmodo. Content partners include Compass Learning, Achieve 3000, and Virtual Nerd.

20. Mooresville Graded School District, north of Charlotte North Carolina, is a well known 1:1 district with an interesting configuration: three K-3 schools, two 4-6 schools, and a 7-8 middle. In Mooresville, It’s Not About the Machine, It’s About Heart. See Mark Edward’s book, Every Child, Every Day.

21. The 130 school New Tech Network (NTN) includes a growing number of project-based STEM-focused middle and elementary schools. The Evergreen School District in San Jose, California is home to Bulldog Tech, a NTN demonstration site, and Katherine Smith Elementary.

22. The 30 K-12 schools of the IDEA Public Schools prepare south Texas students for college with the rigorous International Baccalaureate program. IDEA McAllen (profiled here) is a K-6 school featuring DreamBox, ST Math, Reasoning Mind, and ThinkThroughMath. Direct Instruction in reading is augmented by a blended Sylvan lab.

23. Humes Preparatory Academy-Elementary & MIddle Schools in Memphis are operated by Gestalt Community Schools (profiled here). Students spend seven and a half hours of their nine hour day in a blended rotation environment using Mac laptops and ST Math, Achieve 3000, Compass Learning, Wowzers, and Study Island.

Elementary Schools

24. Rocketship Education (profiled here) has eight Bay Area high-poverty high-performing blended elementary schools. Primary grades rotate through a lab for a quarter of their eight hour day. Intermediate grades use a class rotation model. Content includes DreamBox, ST Mathi-Ready, and Rosetta Stone.

25. KIPP Empower in LA (profiled here) was the first blended school in the KIPP network. The station rotation model runs on a Education Elements and Agilix platform and features DreamBox, iStation, and Compass Learning.

26. Ingenuity Prep, in Washington, D.C, is a NGLC winner that will serve K-1 students next year. They plan to grow into a  K-12 school in DC with a four-tiered staffing approach (from resident to master teacher) and small-group blended learning instruction.

27. Acton Academy is a cool private elementary school in Austin (profiled here) and one of the best examples of self-directed learning.

28. Success Academy is redefining success in K-8 education with 22 elementary, middle, and K-8 schools in NYC. Visit to learn about sophisticated teacher development, inspiring science instruction, and a powerful culture. CEO Eva Moskowitz explains, “We have a culture of daily mastery–we believe children should intellectually struggle with challenging content and the teachers should insist on mastery.”

29. Achievement First operates 25 schools in Brooklyn, Providence, and Connecticut. The flagship Amistad Academy, “opened in New Haven in 1999 to prove that urban students can achieve at the same high levels as their affluent suburban counterparts.” When I mention charter management organizations as the big breakthrough of the last decade, AF is at the top of that list.

30. Bracken STEAM Academy is an award winning magnet K-5 school in north Las Vegas (profiled here). Grade level teams coordinate a long list of digital resources.

31. Gilroy Prep is the highest performing new elementary school in California and the anchor of Navigator Schools. The ST Math program is discussed here and the lab rotation model is profiled here.

32. KM Explore is one of three very interesting district sponsored charter schools west of Milwaukee. The open plan multiage blend features high engagement projects. They also figured out what to do with those old textbooks.

33. Cleveland Elementary School (featured here) was the lowest performing elementary school in Santa Barbara district until they launched a blended math program powered by DreamBox Learning. The adaptive math program is used in a station rotation model.

34. Cornerstone Madison-Carver Academy is a k-6 school in the same facility as Cornerstone Health High School in Detroit (and featured last week and last year). Cornerstone features a lab rotation in primary grades and a class rotation in intermediate grades–and a strong culture and well developed character development program K-12.

35. All students at Wade King Elementary School, Bellingham Washington, are learning Chinese. Students are able to work at their own pace, and benefit from individualized instruction, access from home, and coaching from a native speaker. King Elementary was featured in recent paper, The Next Generation of World Language Learning.

36. Colvin Run Elementary School, Fairfax County Virginia (also featured in the world language paper) expanded their existing Spanish curriculum in blended classrooms. After 13 weeks, 90% for the students improved oral proficiency by at least one level. They also used Rosetta Stone to create an independent study program for languages like Chinese.

 37. Hartland School of Community Learning (profiled here) was a twitter suggestion and we’ve added it to our must visit list. Students in this grade 3-5 multiage charter school use trimester targets to set weekly and monthly academic goals for themselves to guide their learning. Each day students stop, drop, reflect for the last 40 minutes of the day.

38. St. Louis Language Immersion Schools (@SLLIS) include a French, Spanish and Chinese immersion elementary schools, and plan to open an IB secondary school next year. We agree: every student should be globally competent, world language fluent.

What schools inspire you? After publishing on EdWeek, we received a few more submissions:

  • @MentorSuper invited us to visit #catalyst in Mentor Schools for what is becoming a regional blended learning development site with @EdElements
  • @gsinders reminded me of Cincinnati Day School
  • @JasonMMarkey reminded me of National Teachers Academy in Chicago
  • Neil Shorthouse reminded me of North Star Academy in Newark
  • Steve McCrea suggested River Cities Community Charter School in Miami.  It features cooperative teaching & learning, integration of the arts, advisories, personal learning plans, portfolios & portfolio interviews, multiple domain assessments, end-of year exhibitions, eight grade internships, and capstone projects

DreamBox, Compass Learning, Curriculum Associates, MIND Research Institute, Connections Education, and Rosetta Stone, are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. Edmodo, eduClipper, Mangahigh, NoRedInk, and MasteryConnect, are a portfolio company of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.

Video: Blended Learning Implementation Guide

The idea of combining great teachers with individualized learning platforms, leveraging technology is what blended learning is all about. In the newest installment of the DLN Smart Series videos, we hear from teachers, administrators and edtech specialists who have made the leap and fully believe that blended digital learning truly makes school better for all students.

This video brings to life the Digital Learning Now! Smart Series white paper, Blended Learning Implementation Guide 2.0. A successful transition to blended learning includes these key phases: creating the conditions for success, planning, implementation, and continuous improvement.  Watch and listen as the 5 decisions needed to be made in order to implement blended learning are thoroughly explained and discussed by experts in the field who are already doing this work.


If you haven’t seen the others in this series, watch Funding the Shift to Digital Learning and Blended Learning Models. All the videos from Digital Learning Now! align with the Smart Series white papers published over the past year. Don’t forget to download your own copy of the Blended Learning Implementation Guide. 

Digital Learning Now! is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

Writing with Images: A Primer

Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Fotobabble, Pinterest, Tumblr, Shutterfly, Smugmug.  If you have used one of these online tools today, you have shared your opinion, offered a commentary, expressed your creativity, or witnessed a moment in time — and you’ve done it through images. As we write nowadays with images as often as we write with words, if not more so, we need to give some attention to how we teach and how we learn how to use images online.

We Are What We Post

Whether we are sharing on social media or bringing a visual dimension to blog posts, we curate all kinds of photographs to make a personal statement about who we are. Here are some questions you can ask to bring curatorial awareness to the images you share:

* Have you taken the time to produce or share quality work?

* Are you using basic photo techniques to produce the best images you can?

* Does your image add to discussion or debate? Does it enhance what you want to say?

* Does your image stand alone, or does it need a well-crafted comment to go with it?

* What do your posts say collectively about you? Do they represent your best self?

Learning the Basics

As I work with my middle-school students, I first ask them to create a photo narrative essay about themselves as readers.  We talk about how to read the story in a photograph, how to pay attention to light and angle and framing. I remind students to keep the camera steady, hold their breath, and consider the rule of thirds when composing a photograph. I want them to master some tools for creating great, expressive photos of their own as a starting place.

I want my students to think about how image works with text, how it adds to the design of the page, how it enhances what they wish to say, and how it provokes additional discussion. In the end, the powerful impact of a well-chosen image will elevate their writing; a poorly chosen image, at best, will distract from what is said.

Teaching Beyond Selfies and Google Images

Ask any student to find photos, however, and the first thing they do is power up Google Images. Ask them to choose something from their own photo albums, and they produce cheesy mug shots with friends or embarrassing selfies. Yet, given a few simple tools and guidelines to work with, students unleash real visual power into their writing. Here’s what I like to do:

* Develop a greater appreciation for great photography; discuss the impact of photos you see every day. I introduce students to masters like Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, and Cindy Sherman, along with lesser known contemporary photographers. I also like to use the Lens blog at the New York Times for this.

* Help students discover search engines for photographs, and teach them how to use them. I use, which has filters for “Creative Commons” and “Safe.” I also sometimes use Searching for photos also takes some practice — finding the right search terms, thinking beyond literal illustration, and identifying emotional tone are all part of the mix.

* Explain Creative Commons, Fair Use, and copyright. These terms are a foreign language to my students at first, and they have often been taught bad habits by the well-meaning adults in their lives. Once they feel ownership of their own photographs, however, they gain greater sensitivity for using the work of others. I emphasize using Creative Commons licensed and copyright free works, because I want my students to publish their own content on the web, regardless of the school environment it was generated in.

* Teach students how to write a photo or image credit. As far as I can tell, there is no real standard for this. (I’d be happy to know it, if a reader can help me out). I do know that it isn’t just the URL, which students are frequently taught is sufficient. I teach my students about scholarly documentation, how this is different from copyright, and suggest a format something like footnoting: photographer/creator, “Image Title,” date, URL.

(The ever-helpful Richard Byrne offers more suggestions in his post, “Free Digital Photos and a Guide to Citing Them,” Free Technology for Teachers, Nov. 26, 2013.)

Be Nice

It doesn’t hurt to reinforce a bit of online photography etiquette. Asking permission never hurts, whether you want to ask permission to use a photograph or artwork by someone you know, or whether you want to post a picture of a friend. Students need to be reminded of school policies about posting photographs of other students, and it’s not a bad idea to have them check in with their own parents about what they are posting.

It’s worth talking about how photographs can be used to hurt, expose, or embarrass others and how we need to take personal responsibility for the images we share. This is a character issue that goes to the heart of how students communicate every single day.

Students have endless “what if” questions about the subjects of their photos, but if they get the concept of being considerate of others, you’ve done your job.

Imagine, Envision, Create

We have long honored the power of the written word to move an audience. Yet, today we are just as likely to pick up a camera (in our phones) as we are to pen a note. Learning how to envision and create with both images and text constitute essential skills for all of us as we share our imaginations and ideas, now and in the future.
Photo Credits:
Emma, “Books Can Change People’s Lives,” 2013
Tres, “What’s Next?” 2013.

Thank Different

By: Dan Rezac

If you’re a connected educator, I’m sure you can find myriad ways to nominate your fellow edubloggers this season for some award or some badge that will remind them of the amazing job they’re doing. It’s always nice to send some validation to our friends and colleagues for the ways that they inspire us.  And who wouldn’t want to be nominated as, say, a White House Champion of Change? That was a new one this year, and I had a handful of emails from colleagues who were asking for support with that nomination.

On the total other side of the coin- I saw the other day The Nerdy Teacher’s #EduBroAwards, which I would describe as “The Onion” of education awards. You have to give props to Nicholas Provenzano for that; finally an educator with a sense of humor.  Educators aren’t often bold enough to be sarcastic (at least in public), probably for fear that any sarcasm might be taken as negativity (oh how dare!). Nicholas appears to understand the absurdity of it all, with folks so passionately offering their fake awards in his comment section. I’m particularly fond of two award categories, “Best Presenters to Simultaneously Wear Polka Dots” and “Best Pants.”  The #EduBroAwards come at a particularly sensitive time for education award shows after The Bammy Awards debacle that was publicly flogged by Lisa Nielsen. I get the feeling that if we were all given a license to be a more sarcastic, the world would be a better place, so keep that coming, Nick (in fact, step it up a notch).

I could get into the whole psychology of it all, but the fact is- there are a wide range of institutions, including The White House, who are trying to figure out one simple concept: a way to recognize innovation in education. How to do this in a classy way, a public way, and an inclusive way is something that I’m still not sure anyone has figured out.

Here’s what keeps me up at night: are we including everyone? Everyone who is attempting to take education forward. And that means- not just educators, but students, parents, your neighbors, and, I’m not afraid to say: the education industry. I’ve met handfuls of super-passionate entrepreneurs who have their own personal mission to transform education. I’m one of them. But by only recognizing just educators- we cast too small a net. That’s why many of these award ideas fall short. I’ve met plenty of parents whose enthusiasm for educating their child and allowing them to grow- outpaces their kids’ own teachers! Remember Caine’s Dad? The father of this kid’s awesome animation is amazing. Shouldn’t their roles be recognized?

By keeping education recognition just about teachers- we fail to understand that everybody plays a part in our students’ education. We need to allow this conversation to get out of the education bubble. I often wonder how that can be accomplished.

My personal struggle on this: how do we recognize education that is inclusive of everyone and gets outside of this bubble? How do we get our neighbors, our relatives, those who may not feel they have a stake in education- involved? Education is a bubble- and one of the goals of my company,, is to break that bubble. We’re growing, and constantly adding programming that includes new audiences and new stakeholders in education that can help us break free.

In August, I received a call from Mike Lawrence of the Computing-Using Educators- to take a step forward with something we started on EdReach called #EduWin. At the ISTE Conference a couple years ago- we dreamed of how the power of the hashtag could affect how people perceive education. We created a Tumblr at to bring the #EduWin movement outside of the Twitter-sphere, and our partnership with PBS Student Reporting Labs put #EduWin in the hands of students. A simple idea- share a positive story about education using the #EduWin hashtag.

Together, CUE and EdReach last month announced The #EduWin Awards. Ah- yes- more awards. But hang on. If you go to and read between the lines- you can see that this is something different. We wanted to create something that honored all of the stakeholders in education- and I think we have a solid start.

What are The #EduWin Awards about?  I can tell you what it’s not about. It’s not about creating badges to put on your website. It’s not about self-promotion. It’s about promoting others. It’s about recognizing- anyone. Anyone that you see Taking Education Forward. Teachers, doctors, students, neighbors. It’s also about looking beyond the bubble, and bringing others into the education fold.

The spirit of #EduWin has always been about telling the stories of education that happen every day- that people never hear.  The assistive tech breakthrough that helped a student communicate. The app that helped a student learn and appreciate math- in a whole new way. The substitute teacher who broke through to a student in a way that their permanent teacher never did. These are the stories we know are happening in classrooms and cities all over the world, and wanted a way to create a positive media stream that would negate the typical union and budget stuff you hear in the mainstream media. That’s what #EduWin is accomplishing, and it now has a life of its own.

#EduWin is really about telling stories. Positive education stories. It’s about recognizing those individuals who, in their actions, tell a really great education story. You can read some of those stories here from our October Honorees.

So- if you’d like to really give thanks- ‘thank different’ this year, and nominate someone  for a November #EduWin Award. Nominate someone who you know is thinking outside the box, who may be outside the bubble, and is telling an education story in their daily practice that will bridge the divide from the bureaucracy, the endless education acronyms, and the squabbles that take education back a step. One of our #EduWin Honorees will join us at the March CUE conference in Palm Springs, and share their stories with those who are eager to rewrite education history.

Let’s take education forward. Let’s make someone’s holiday. Nominate someone for an #EduWin Award, and let’s write a new chapter to this book.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 9.22.35 PMDaniel Rezac is the Editor in Chief of  The EdReach Network ( He’s also a full-time Technology Integrator for a school district in Northern Illinois. You can catch him on Twitter @drezac or @edreachus.

It’s Our Bookmark We Can Share What We Want To….

Chaotic, unorganized, sloppy, dysfunctional, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder power user extraordinaire. No, I am not describing Miley Cyrus, I am talking about how I feel with all of the new educational technology tools that are out there. Just when I start using one, something newer and better comes along to pick up the torch. We have based our Techlandia podcast around keeping teachers informed on what is the latest and greatest. I look back at all our Learnist boards and there is A LOT of information out there to digest and take in.

One of my favorite tools to help with this is Symbaloo. I have been using Symbaloo for almost three years, and they keep improving to make things easier. I just created a Symbaloo “webmix” of all our Techlandia episodes last night. It didn’t take very long at all, and the finished product ends up looking very professional. Those are all the qualities I need in a web tool: simple to create, saves time, and gives a great product when you are finished.

Symbaloo is responsible for the growth of my PLN on Twitter. I talked with them after a demo at the 2011 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia. Then I proceeded to my last session, which was 60 in 60 by Brandon Lutz. The session was packed, and Brandon ripped through 60 webtools in 60 minutes. I went back to the hotel, and started working on my webmix for all the websites Brandon shared. When I was finished, I contacted Brandon and told him I was going to share the webmix on Twitter. He was very positive and suggested that I put the link to his website and Twitter handle in the webmix. It was one of the first things that I shared that people responded to positively on Twitter. I could see people sharing and adding the webmix to their Symbaloo accounts, and that gave me a feeling of satisfaction.  I have been trying to make and share items like that ever since.

One of my other favorite uses of Symbaloo is to curate class projects in the same place for viewing by students and parents. I like for students to have a forum to share and present projects. A quick Symbaloo webmix can get all your projects together in one nice board. A tap of the sharing options gets their hard work shared on social media, which they can also get feedback from. I used the Twitter hashtag #comments4kids to see if other teachers and students would give feedback. It raises the bar if the students know that their work will be shared with people outside the school. I also like organizing the projects in a Symbaloo webmix, so that we can look back on their work at the end of the year. It makes for good discussion on how much progress they have made throughout the year.

If you get the chance, sign up for Symbaloo and give it a try. I think it is great for visual learners. All you do is press the button, and you are at the website! This is my Symbaloo profile if you want examples of my webmixes. If you need any help getting started, I am just a tweet away @ipadsammy. I have also embedded my newest creation, all the Techlandia episodes in one place, along my two most popular boards. Once you start….you can’t stop!

Screen-Shot-2013-10-04-at-9.03.28-AMJon Samuelson (@ipadsammy on Twitter) is the co-host of the Techlandia and TechEducator Podcasts. In addition, Jon is a Client Solutions Specialist for Atlas Learning, which just debuted LiveSlide in August and is now available for teachers. 

“One Size Does Not Fit All” for Online Teacher Professional Development

As the role of the teacher grows beyond the 4 physical walls the used to confine it before the integration of digital technology, so must the methods teachers use to learn and prepare.

We spent some time talking to the passion driven professional development team at Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and were excited by the multiple different paths teachers can take to become effective, talented online teachers for today’s students.  They are working to simulate success by connecting learners to engaging and in growth opportunities. The online classroom looks and functions so different from the brick and mortar, professional development has to match this level of innovation for students to truly benefit.

The FLVS professional learning department has always been dedicated to offering quality training to their teachers and have worked to meet their needs, utilizing a number of methods. The belief that learning is not “one size fits all holds true as much for the FLVS educators as it does for the FLVS students. The brief video below outlines so many of the opportunities for training and PD available at FLVS.


What’s New for Current Teachers

PLCs. Karen Ross, learning specialist at FLVS explained they will be officially launching online Professional Learning Communities for their teachers in January that run throughout the year. Together, the PLC groups will focus on the Common Core State Standards, have discussions on their role across the content and, in pods, break down lessons together in order ensure the instruction is aligned to CCSS.

Peer to Peer Observation. FLVS online teachers will also soon be participating in peer to peer evaluation with an observation tool specifically developed for the virtual environment. Peer to peer observation is a powerful learning opportunity for physical world teachers and, with the right tools to allow for the experience to translate to the virtual world, online teachers can observe and model official teaching practices and strategies of their peers just as effectively.

What’s New for Preservice Teachers

Internship Program. Preservice teachers can work towards their online teaching credentials through multiple pathways. FLVS’s internship program, which started by working in partnership with University of Central Florida, has grown exponentially since it first started with just 6 volunteers. This year, almost 250 volunteered to be part of the program. In 2010, the program went through a quality standards review with the Professional Learning with United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and earned the Professional Learning Certificate of Excellence.

Preservice educators can opt in on the level that meets their interest. There is a 5 week program built for mainly observation to help the students who are starting slow and want to decide if online teaching is the right fit. Next, there is a Jr level (level 1) – which lasts 7 weeks with more brick and mortar classroom time at the university and 20 hours a week spent online, focused on observing and receiving guidance from current instructors. In the Senior block (level 2)- that lasts 15 weeks, training teachers spend 40 hours a week online and, with support, take over most of the teaching responsibilities, more similar to the traditional student teaching experience.

One of the initial challenges FLVS faced when they started the work to establish the program was convincing the professors that an internship could work in a virtual environment. But as the word spread, students as well as professors quickly recognized the great potential of an online teaching internship. Intern programs are currently offered at 9 different universities, 2 of the outside of Florida. Some of the programs have started working on virtual counseling and/or principal certifications.

Through this program, future educators get the answers and training they need to teach in the online space. Some teachers enter the program and discover it is not the right fight for them. Others discover strengths and opportunities they had not known existed. FLVS’s internship program has grown so fast there are now more interested in enrolling than there are trainers available but FLVS plans to expand the internship opportunities as well as the course options so that more teachers can receive the training they are looking for.

FLVS is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.