Saturday, February 28, 2015

MarkIt Up In Our Makerspace

One of the things I have been working on the past few months is turning a space in the library into a Makerspace. Part of that process is finding the right furniture and tools to place in the space so students can be as creative as possible. One of these tools is the MarkIt Up table from It is a 3 in 1 dry erase table that allows users to use it as a table, standing desk, and a dry erase board. It is a first of its kind.

I was very lucky to have send me one for the purpose of the review and to help us create a space for our students. The first thing that stands out about this great table is the fact that it can be raised and lowered electrically. It can meet the height of any user. The height adjustment range is from 27" to 47". Once the table is assembled, just plug it in and get to work. The table moves up and down with two simple buttons to press. That is not the only thing that table can do.

The table can be flipped up to become a board to present the work you have done. Here are some pictures of the table in table form and flipped up in the board view. The easy lock mechanism is perfect to keep the table in the board position and it allows for a simple pull to move it back down to the table position. The transition is easy and great when people want to share their work with others.

The other nice part of the table is that the height can be adjusted. If there are taller or shorter students who need to work on the table, they only need to press the buttons to raise or lower it to fit their needs. It is also nice for those students who want to stand and work at the table instead of just sitting. It is better for students to stand and work at times and the MarkIt Up table allows students to do that.

We are currently using the table to help design the physical space in the library and to take notes when we meet. We then take pictures of the work when we are done and can erase the table for others to use next. The table is also on wheels, so that makes it very easy to move around the space and work wherever we need to. We truly envision this table playing a large part in the space as students work to create exciting projects to share with the school and the community. 

Here is a quick video showing the Markit Up in action. 

The dry erase markers worked wonderfully on the table. We were able to write, erase, and write again without any staining or shadowing on the table. It is perfect for quick brainstorming or long term writing. Here are some shots of table in action and some of our work. 

The MarkIt Up table retails for $1,299.99 and is a nice investment in a space that is going to have many students in and out planning big and small projects. I'm looking for tools and furniture that will support creativity and collaboration. The MarkIt Up table meets that criteria easily. I reccommend you check out the MarkIt Up table for your learning spaces. 

For more information on the MarkIt Up table, follow the link

Friday, February 27, 2015

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #24 #BbK12Live

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #22 #BbK12Live

I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll feature the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

Teacher Toolbox - Reshaping Assessment and Feedback For Online Students

Assessment and feedback are at the heart of the learning experience.  In this session, we will discuss specific strategies for shaping assessment and feedback in the online environment to build strong teacher/student relationships, guide resource and learning path decisions, increase student metacognition, and provide tools for current and future learning within the content.

Jeni Day, Science Teacher, Instructional Leader, Course Developer

I have been teaching science for 17 years, and have 4 years of online teaching experience with NCVPS as a teacher and, for the past year, as an Instructional Leader. In addition to an amazing education in a rural North Carolina high school. I am a proud East Carolina University graduate, am National Board Certified (and renewed) in AYA/Science, and achieved AIG Certification through an online program with University of Virginia.

Twitter: @

Monday March 2, 2015 3:30 PM EST

Sign Up

Don't forget to check out the Blackboard Live App. It has all of the sessions you might have missed and much much more.
 Here is the playlist where you can watch this recorded session and other sessions you might have missed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #23 #BbK12Live

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #23 #BbK12Live

I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll feature the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

Breaking Through the Bricks: Providing Student Feedback in an Online Environment

How is providing feedback in the online environment different from in the brick and mortar classroom? Explore key considerations and best practices in providing specific and engaging feedback to learners of all ages in a digital classroom in order to improve student success..

Claudine Townley, Solutions Engineer

Claudine Townley is a K-12 Blackboard Solutions Engineer with a focus on teaching and learning and adoption success. She has spent 20+ years in public education in both the brick and mortar and online worlds. Her former roles included language arts teacher, reading coach, and director Florida Virtual School’s global department. She is also a published author, a National Board Certified Teacher, and holds a Master of Science in Education, with a specialization in reading and literacy.

Twitter: @

Friday, February 27, 2015 12:00 PM EST

Sign Up

Don't forget to check out the Blackboard Live App. It has all of the sessions you might have missed and much much more.
 Here is the playlist where you can watch this recorded session and other sessions you might have missed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#NerdyCast Is Back! @SpencerIdeas is my guest. #edchat

Welcome back everyone! #NerdyCast is back and it is as nerdy as ever. Listen in as +John Spencer (@SpencerIdeas) and I chat about House of Cards, ambition, teacher pay, and other goodness. The episode is available to download on iTunes. Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2015

#edcampDetroit is Saturday May 9 Register Today! #MichEd

I'm so excited to announce that edcamp Detroit is back for its 5th year and we couldn't be happier. Now is the time to snag your tickets for the best PD you can get your hands on in Metro Detroit. If you have any questions, feel free to email We hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ram For A Week #SHNerd

I'm sad to be leaving the awesome South Haven community. Some might view the back to back snow days as a bad omen, but they really stood out to me as fine examples of the type of dedicated educators any school district would want to have in their schools.

I spent the first 3 days of this week visiting classrooms and teaching model lessons that infuse technology into ELA units. I was able to teach in a 6th and 8th grade class and it was so much fun. The students were great and the units went very well. I learned so much from talking "shop" with the teacher at Baseline Middle School. There are so many passionate learners there with so much to share. We shared reading and writing strategies and classroom management techniques. It was 3 days of 1:1 professional development that teachers really need once in a while. I was able to address specific questions and work with teachers on improving instruction. Along the way, I learned a few things about myself and how I approach instruction in the classroom. It was a great experience.

During the snow days, I was trapped in my hotel room. It was freezing cold, it was snowing, and the wind was blowing all over the place. Despite the opportunity to stay at home and relax, multiple teachers took the time to reach out and chat with me via email and Google Hangouts. One conversation lasted well over an hour and we talked all things language arts. It was a great conversation to have with teachers dedicated to learning something new to support their students. It was a great time. I also received emails from admins and was able to review curriculum that they have online to better support teachers interested in adding technology to the lessons to get the most out of the Chromebooks that are being rolled out.

It was such a great week in an awesome community. The administrators were wonderfully supportive and the teachers were on board to make some changes. Change is not easy, but I see some great things happening in South Haven and I can't wait for my next visit to see how far they have moved forward. Hopefully it will be a bit warmer next time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #22 #BbK12Live

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #22 #BbK12Live

I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll feature the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

Enhance Middle School Student Experience & Accountability using Bb Achievements

Students are used to achieving goals in electronic games and are motivated to “get to the next level”. Using this premise, I set out to explore ways to entice my students in my blended classes to log in to Blackboard early and often. I found devising Achievement gradients and awarding Badges are an effective motivator. can do the trick. In this session I will share how I designed my course with a tiered system of badges to motivate my students and provide them with tangible goals and achievements and keep them coming back for more. For some students the learning process feels intangible -- earning a certificate or badge can change this feeling and the student can see their progress toward definite goals. I will teach you the “how” but also the “why” of using this reward system with middle school aged children.

Maria Clinger, Teacher – Spanish 6-8

Maria Clinger is a NBCT of Science and now teaches Spanish to Middle School students. After graduating from James Madison University, she began teaching in her hometown of Arlington, VA. She taught Biology for 10 years and taught one year abroad in Quito, Ecuador, before making the leap to teach Spanish. She is a native Spanish-speaker and first generation Ecuadorian. Her love of learning and teaching has been a constant throughout her life. She is a mother of three and spends her free time playing, cooking, and reading with her children.

Twitter: @

Monday, February 23, 2015 3:30 PM EST

Sign Up

Don't forget to check out the Blackboard Live App. It has all of the sessions you might have missed and much much more.
 Here is the playlist where you can watch this recorded session and other sessions you might have missed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2 in 1 in the Classroom #EdTech

2in1-BloggerGraphics-_Nick P-15.jpg

I’ve been very lucky to have a class set of tablets for a number of years. I have seen the things my students have been able to do in class that was just not possible before. The tablets have been a major influence on how I have run my class and designed my lessons. I have encountered issues though that could only be solved with a stronger platform.

People have asked if I would still buy tablets if I had to do it all over again. It is a very tough question for me to answer. The tablet allows my students the freedom to move around the room and the school to record projects and complete other work. A laptop would allow students to work on bigger projects and presentations much easier than a tablet allows. At the time, I had to choose one or the other. Things are different now.

I’ve been playing with some of the 2 in 1 laptops at the stores lately and getting a good feel as to what they can do. I started to think about what could be possible in my classroom if my students had the options to use the tablet and then go back to the laptop for a different part of the project. Here are some of the things that stood out to me when putting a 2 in 1 in play in the classroom.

  1. The cool thing about 2 in 1 is that it can be what you want it to be when you need it. I think about the different projects that my students work in class and one stands out to me when I think about using the 2 in 1 in the classroom. Every year, my American Literature students hold a Mock Trial of Mark Twain. Over the course of a couple of weeks, students research, prep witnesses, and hold a trial in class. The connected screen and keyboard would allow my students to do all of the hard computing and research needed during the first part of the trial and then they can detach and use the tablet when the trial starts to walk around and question the witnesses. When done, they can go back to their table and re-attach to take notes on the rest of the trial.

  1. Another cool thing that I do in the classroom is have students walk around the school and take pictures of anything that stands out to them. Then, I have them create a gothic story based on the elements of the photo. It’s a fun creative writing piece that follows a unit on Edgar Allan Poe. The kids get to stretch their creative muscles and base it off a photo found at school. I love the idea of my students detaching the screen to use the tablet and explore the school. When they are done, they can go back to the classroom and type their story. It is possible with just a tablet, but it is much better when the students have a keyboard to quickly type up their ideas.

  1. I also like the flexibility of the 2 in 1. If I want to take class to another part of the campus, I can have them detach and take their tablet with them. When I’m ready to get back to the classroom, they can reconnect it with the keyboard and get back to typing. It is nice to have those options and see what the students can do. I want to get out of my classroom as much as possible and the 2 in 1 can give me a little more room to plan excursions outside of the class.

I’m always looking for different ways to get my students engaged and using tools that will make life easier for them in the classroom. I’m always willing to try and experiment with different tools because that is what I want them to do for their own success. It is important to look around and see all of the different options out there for the classroom. I liked what the Dell 2 in 1 XPS 12 and HP Spectre X2 could do for my students working on a project. They both have strong computing power and the ability to detach and reattach from the keyboard to get my kids up and moving. These two stand out to me, but there are others from Intel that are worth checking out. Visit here to see what Intel has to offer. If you have used the 2 in 1’s in your classroom, leave a comment here. I’d love to hear what you think.

Brought to you by Intel Education.

Monday, February 16, 2015

#SMARTkapp Fits Nicely In My Collaborative Classroom #edchat

I'm happy to share how the SMART kapp has worked in my classroom and I how I plan to get the most out of it with my students. Here is a short video that explains what kapp is and how it can be used. 

The main reason that I love kapp is that it is a collaboration tool. For my classroom, I look for things that will make collaboration better and easier for me and my students. Kapp fits those requirements. 

Using kapp is very easy to do. Here is a great graphic from SMART that accurately depicts setting up kapp

I currently have the 42" model hanging in my classroom and I have been using it with my students.

Here is some important info on the app.

You will notice there are four differences between the free version and the paid version. I upgraded to the yearly paid version to really try things out.

The pin protection for the live web view is not a concern for me. There might be something I do not want the world to see, but I have not encountered it yet.

Watermark-free PDFs is a cool feature if you are going to use anything created on the kapp for a presentation. I could see where that would be important, but it has not been an issue in my class yet.

Persistent URL for live sharing is awesome. I can create one link and that is the link that my students can return to over and over again on their iPad. This can be turned on or off and a passcode can be entered if needed. This is nice for long term use of the kapp in the classroom.

Concurrent live remote viewers is important for the classroom. 5 students would be ok for small group work on different days, but if there is something that wanted to be viewed by others on their devices, 5 would not be enough. For the smaller 42" board, I do not see this as a huge problem, but for the lager 84" board, there might be many more people around a room using it, more than 5 viewers might be needed. Also, if a class is working with another class remotely, having more that 5 open spots for viewing could be a cool way for the classes to collaborate.

From the app

Overall, the upgrade is worth it for the first year to see if how often you will use the different features. You could always go monthly if you feel you will only need it for certain lessons. It is nice to have those options.

Here are some of the things I have been doing with kapp.

Note Reminders:

Here is a screenshot from my phone of the SMART kapp app. This is what I wrote on my board and it was captured by kapp and sent to my phone after I scanned the QR code. Everything that I write on the board appeared on my phone. If I erased something, it erased from my phone. It worked smoothly with the Bluetooth connection. 

SMART kapp works with your existing Evernote account so users can save their work and start with a fresh screen. Simply pushing the camera icon will save the work and it will be available on the app. Here are a collection of the different items saved. 

Once I select an item, I can choose to text it, mail it, or send it to Evernote. The send it to Evernote part is something that makes the most sense for me. Since I have shared notebooks with my students, I can send any of these notes to all of my students by simply sending it to the shared notebook. Better yet, when students are working on different projects, they could use the board, scan the QR code and start sharing their work in their own Evernote notebooks. All of their work can be quickly and easily saved. I'm hoping for Google Drive integration in the future. 

Here are some stats on the 42" kapp

Here are some stats on the 84" kapp

One of the things I have been working on this first half of the school year is creating a Makerspace for the my school. I have been pulling in resources from everywhere to make this happen and I have to say that the kapp is a perfect edition to my classroom and it will be great in a Makerspace. Kapp is all about collaboration and that is what I want to see in the Makerspace. This product is perfect for the type of work students have asked to do in our space. It is a very cool device that will only grow to have more bells and whistles as time moves forward. I couldn't be happier to have one in my classroom.

Check out SMART kapp and see how it might fit into your learning environment.

SMART sent me a kapp for the purposes of this review. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Literature and Society: Creating Thinkers

There is this belief out there that teachers are only teach the students all of the content in their area and get them ready for tests. With the crazy emphasis on exams, it is starting to look more and more like a reality, but I still know the one of most important parts of my job.

I just finished teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to my grade 9 students and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to my grade 10 students. I consider these two books to be the most important things my students will read. Not just in high school, but probably college. These books are not just important because of the satire Twain uses or the symbolism Lee shows through the eyes of Scout. These books are an important reminder of where I society has come from and how far we still have to go. Here are just a few things that my students pointed out and connected to the world today. 

In Huck Finn, there is a chapter where a Boggs, the down drunk, is confronted by Colonel Sherburn. Boggs puts up his arms and says, "O, Lord, don't shoot!" and Colonel Sherburn decides to shoot him anyway. While Boggs was white in the story, many of my students made a connection to the Michael Brown case. It was an interesting discussion led by students. They saw something in the text that is over 100 years old and made a connection to the world around them. It was not the first time they would do this. 

As part of the final project for Huck Finn, my class puts on a mock trial. Mark Twain is charged with being racist for the language he used in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The prosecution needs to prove beyond a doubt that the book is racist and that Twain is racist for writing it. They select characters from the book and they offer their testimony based on their actions in the book. The prosecution and defense need to argue that those interpretations are racist or simply satire. Over the years, students have come back to my class and told me that this was the best thing they did all year and they always want to know how the current classes are handling the case. The students really go after this project and argue intensely. The jury has great discussions about Twain, satire, race, and other aspects of the novel that adults around the country should take note of when considering the banning of this great novel. 

When the project is over, the students discuss the frustration of being on the prosecution team. They do not believe that Twain is racist or that Huck Finn is racist. They get even more frustrated when they hear that the book is still banned in parts of the country. They always say that the book is tough to read, it can be hard to understand, but it is an important read because it shows a part of our history that should not be forgotten. 

To Kill a Mockingbird is the other important novel that my students will read and they can't get enough. It is sometimes easy to get wrapped up in the mystery of Boo Radley and his past. However, my students really dove into the life of Tom Robinson and Maycomb's "usual disease". I love seeing their confused faces when the obvious racism stands out in the story as just a way of life. They are confused as to how life could be that way. I tell them their confusion is a good thing because they find it hard to fathom that  people were treated this way. My students question the validity of trials and fairness in the world today. They talk about how far we have come and how far some people still need to go. Some students even compared the bigotry in Maycomb to to how LGBT people are treated and one student brought up same-sex marriage and discrimination. 

Having students take literature and connect it to the world around them is what reading is all about. Students want to read. They really do. They just want to know how it is relevant to them. Mark Twain once said, "Classic - a book people praise, but don't read." I fear we might be heading in this direction if some people get their way and continue to remove these great texts. I dread the thought that we might be getting closer and closer to Ray Bradbury's version of our future in Fahrenheit 451.  

As a teacher, my job is to keep my personal opinion to the side and encourage thoughtful discussion. I'm always very mindful of this. Even when students ask my opinion on social issues, I always redirect it to their thoughts. Watching students make these connections on their own is amazing. Watching students respectfully push back the norm opinion is powerful. 

My job is more than just teaching students literary terms. 

It is about creating thinkers. 

Those who think that is not my job are the ones that are most afraid of new thinkers being created. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #21 #BbK12Live

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #21 #BbK12Live

I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll feature the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

Online Instructional Modules: Keeping the Design Process in Mind

Darlene Schaefer - Curriculum Instructional Leader, NCVPS

Natasha Wippel - Curriculum Instructional Leader, NCVPS

Brandi Thurmond - Curriculum Instructional Leader, NCVPS 

Ann Taylor Lusk - Curriculum Instructional Leader, NCVPS

Twitter: @
dschaeferncvps @NatashaWippel @BrandiThurmond

Monday February 16, 2015 3:30 PM EST

Sign Up

Don't forget to check out the Blackboard Live App. It has all of the sessions you might have missed and much much more.
 Here is the playlist where you can watch this recorded session and other sessions you might have missed.

The @Doxie Go Wi-Fi Review

I've been a big fan of Doxie for many years now. I've been striving to be free of paper more and more and Doxie has helped me fight that battle. Now, there is a new Doxie Go Wi-Fi that allows me to scan on the go and connect directly to my mobile device. 

The Doxie Go Wi-Fi was simple to use and easy to set up. I was scanning within minutes of downloading the iOS app on my phone and iPad. The free app allows users to connect to the Doxie Go Wi-Fi and access all of the scans on their device. From there, the user can send those to their favorite cloud storage system. 

Turn it on and wait for the blue light
Scan everything you need
Send to your favorite cloud storage system
The Doxie Go Wi-Fi has it's own Wi-Fi that you connect your device to so that you can grab the scans from the scanner. Once the connection has been made, the PDFs can be added to your device and shared in many different ways. For me, I send my scans to Evernote for my personal work and I send my school scans to Google Drive. I could text them or email to others if it something quick. 

The Doxie Go Wi-Fi sill can connect to your computer and the Doxie software is still great for quick edits to the scanned documents. The flexibility of being able to scan and connect to my mobile device when I'm traveling and still make scans when I'm home and connected to my computer is priceless. 
Some try to say that taking pictures with your phone is "good enough" for scanning documents and I just do not buy it. Doxie Go Wi-Fi will scan in full color up to 600 dpi. That makes for very crisp photos and documents. I have been scanning old family photos using my Doxie and it works great. I can keep scanning and saving my work as I go. I can sit comfortably on the couch and scan away and connect to my computer when I'm ready. The portability of the scanner is a nice feature that should not be understated. 

The Doxie Go Wi-Fi is listed at $229, but there is special education pricing that is worth checking out. The Doxie Go Wi-Fi has been an excellent addition to my backpack as I travel to conferences and have more of a mobile work station in my life. The Doxie Go Wi-Fi is worth adding to your educational space and personal life. 

Doxie sent me a Doxie Go Wi-Fi for the purpose of this review, but I still love it because it is awesome.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Kid President and a Nerdy Teacher

I met the President last week. Yup. The Kid President. He was every bit as awesome as I could have hoped. I was able to set up KP and is crew to speak at an elementary school in my district as they promoted their new book, Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome. While in town, I asked if they would like to join me for lunch and they stopped by for a bit of the afternoon. Now, Robby does not travel solo. He has his brother-in-law Brad, his mom, and Correy and Katie from SoulPancake at his side making sure that everything is as awesome as it could be during their trip. Here are some great shots from his visit to Grosse Pointe South High School and Trombly Elementary. 

Trying to break the combination. 

Robby signed my Smartboard
Correy and Nick v Principal Fitzpatrick and Robby
Robby and Brad pose with my 6th Hour class
The entire day is a blur to me at this point. They came, the kids at the schools were so excited, there was dancing involved, secret handshakes were created, and everyone felt a bit more awesome when they left. While in my room, the KP crew took a moment to write on my Dream Door. This is a place where students are encouraged to write down their dreams for all to see. Here is what some of them shared.

We all have dreams in the world and it is important that we share them so the world can cheer us on to success. Kid President embodies the ideals that I try to pass on to my students every day. Life should be loud and it will be awesome if you treat people awesome. We are all going face adversity and it is ok to get discouraged, but we need to pick ourselves up and get to work making the world a little more awesome for everyone we meet. I'm lucky to have been able to hang out with Kid President for this short period of time, but I know I have made some new friends that will keep working to make the world a more awesome place. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Week 19 and 20 #NerdyCast Reflections

It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me. I have been sick for about two weeks and I have had the busiest two weeks at the same time. I wrote about being sick and being a teacher and had so many great responses. It is nice to know that I'm not the only one that deals with the dilemma of deciding how sick is sick enough to go to work.

We also had a visit from Kid President!

I will go into more detail in a later post, but his visit was awesome and I'm so glad I had a chance to see a friend again and meet the one and only Kid President. It was a great day and I was happy I was able to share it with my students.

My students also wrapped up their Mock Trial and they all did an amazing job. I'm so proud of my students and everything they accomplish. Seeing their engaged faces in projects like this makes all of the hard work worth it. 

Here is the video reflection. I will have more posts soon to cover some of my thoughts more deeply. 


InFocus JTouch and LiteShow 4 Review #EdChat

I'm excited to share with all of you a new addition to our growing Makerspace in my school. The InFocus JTouch and LiteShow 4

The JTouch 65" Interactive Touchscreen Display is an excellent addition to the classroom looking for a more interactive experience for students. At the special educational price of $1,999, it is a great deal. 

Here is a short video that explains more about the display. 

The one thing that jumps out to me is the clarity of the screen. It is crisp! I hooked up my Mac directly to the screen and the image was very bright. This is key because we plan on keeping this in the library with our Makerspace equipment and we will not be able to turn the lights down just for that area. A clear screen will help all of the students in the room. I also connected our document camera to the Mac to see how it would look on the bigger screen and everything looked great. The connection to the Mac was simple and quick. I would have liked to see more than one HDMI port so multiple items could be connected, but I can always go online and purchase a dongle that will allow me to connect extra HDMI cables if I need to. 

We were not able to mount the display on the wall, so we needed a stand. The stand provided by Chief was the perfect solution. It has wheels that allows us the flexibility to move the display around the space and configure the room how we need it depending on the use of the day. I think that is so important for Makerspaces. The stand hides all of the wires and allows for the display to be moved up and down. This is great for students that might be a bit shorter than others. That would not be possible if it were mounted on the wall. If you are looking for the flexibility of moving your display around, check out Chief for some great deals on stands. 

Here are some shots of students using the JTouch with different interactive websites. 

I did not tell the students anything about how to use the display. I just pulled up a site and said use it. The students quickly got the hang of the touch screen and were able to move around the site with ease. Students have been drawn to the nice sized screen and have been asking to spend more time with it. It has definitely changed the library space in a very positive way. 

The display is strong and no delay could be detected when watching the screen and the movement. Sometimes there can be a delay that can cause problems during use, but everything worked very smoothly. I was very happy to see how quickly I set up the display and was able to navigate around the Mac without any delay or choppiness. I really felt that the JTouch was everything advertised and I couldn't be happier to have it as part of our new Makerspace. 

The direct connection to the Mac was nice, but that could prove a pain if we wanted to move the display around often. It means the computer has to come with it. That was no longer a problem once I connected the JTouch to the LiteShow 4

The LiteShow 4 is a wireless receiver that allows you to connect your computer to the JTouch without all of the extra wires. This awesome devices allows for complete wireless control of the the Mac. The computer can now be set up in the corner and the screen can be moved to anywhere in the room. By freeing the display from the computer, it allows for a more flexible learning space. That is a huge plus for me. 

The LiteShow 4 also allows mobile devices to connect by using the MirrorOp app. Now I can have students send their image to the screen by using this free app. Little details like this always make a huge difference in the classroom. Now I can have students work independently, but then share their work with the group quickly by sending it to the screen. 

You can even have multiple computers connected and shown on the screen at once.

As my students start to design and create, this is a great option that will allow students to compare work and choose the best direction to head in for a project. This was not a possibility before. Another excellent part to a great product. It is worth adding to your space if you are looking for wonderful ways to share work and collaborate. It is $399 lives up to all of its promises. 

The  JTouch and LiteShow 4 have been an excellent addition to our growing Makerspace and I would highly recommend them to other educators looking to add a wireless and interactive display option to their classroom or other learning space.

I was sent a JTouch and Liteshow 4 from InFocus for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Welcome to PD Without Borders! #EdChat

I'm really excited to announce a new project  that was born over the summer with two of my Google Teacher Academy friends, Dominque Dynes and Jeffery Humphries. You can find them on Twitter at @DominiqueDynes and @itechteach.

PD Without Borders is a project designed to provide a short video with an expert user on cool tech tips for the busy teacher. These videos will be short and to the point and show something really valuable a tool can do for a teacher in the classroom. We hope to have 3 new videos a month and are always looking for suggestions and collaborators.

You can check out our new site at, visit us on Twitter at @PDWithoutborder, or visit our YouTube Channel to see the great videos we are sharing.

Here is a one video of a few we have already created and posted for your enjoyment.

Monday, February 2, 2015

SMART amp In The Classroom

I recently had a trial for SMART' amp. Here are some thoughts on how it went with my students over the course of a few months.

What is it?

Here is a short video that explains amp.

Amp is a cloud based collaboration tool that works with Google Drive. At first, I was not sure how amp was going to fit into my ecosystem of technology, but it turned out to be a crucial tool for many of my students. 

How I Used amp

After getting all of my students signed up and joined into my class, I created Workspaces. Each Workspace is blank slate where I can place anything I want.

Students were taken to a Workspace that I had shared with them. This workspace was already set up with a Notebook file I had created and wanted all of the students to see.

The students had access to the the entire notebook file in the cloud. Students can look ahead if they wanted or I can control the page from my device. The best part is that students can leave comments or answer questions right on the document. I will show that in a moment. One of the issues with Notebook that some parents and students have said is that putting the software on their computer was not easy for them. With amp, that is no longer a problem. Since this is cloud based, all students have access to the same file without having to download anything. They can access it from their desktop, laptop, or their mobile devices.

What Can It Do?

Amp can do many things. Here are some of the ones that stood out to me over the past few months.

Add Web Based Content

Being able to add web content is huge. It's a web based and cloud based tool, so it might seem like common sense, but there are plenty of collaborative tools out there that do not all embedding of web based content. With this feature, I was able to embed a video and have students watch it at their own pace and leave comments on the document or the messaging system. I could respond to students and others could collaborate based on the video they watched. By allowing students to move at their own speed, there was less pressure for students to pretend they understood just to keep up with the class. Collaborating together over one video in a shares space became much easier with amp.


This might not be a major feature for some, but for others this could be a big plus for amp. Instead of thinking of assessments as a big standardized exam, think of it as a simple way to check for understanding. Assessment questions can be created and used an exit ticket for students. The information is only shared to the teacher who will receive instant feedback. Practice exams could be created on workspaces and shared with students to use at home to prepare them for class. It is important for teachers to know where students are and this is a great tool to do that.


Messaging is a great way to have a backchannel while using amp in the classroom. Questions can be asked and answered by other students while the larger class discussion is going on. Teachers can have students watch a video on amp and then post questions in the messaging area that can be addressed the next day in class. It would be a wonderful tool for flipping the classroom. It is important that students feel like they can reach out when they are stuck and the messaging feature is very helpful in keeping that communication open. 


I've got this image off because it has all of my students' names and I did not want to share that. Since amp is connected to Google Drive, all of my students' information is dropped into amp and they are ready to go. When I am ready to share a workpsace with my students, it is dropped into a folder that is already shared with them so they can find it and use it when they come to class or get home. I also love the Hand Out Copies feature as well. It allows me to send a copy of everything we have done on the workspace to any or all of the students. Just like Google Drive, sharing is important for amp as it makes collaboration much easier than ever before. 


You can zoom in and out as much as you need for amp and that is a nice way to organize information on the workspace. Things can be zoomed in our out depending on the lesson created by the teacher on the workspace. Other students could work on different parts of the workspace at different times and this feature allows the users to freely move around the workspace to see the different things people are working on and who is working on it. 

Here is a screen shot of an uploaded Notebook file and a template for note-taking. With multiple students able to access the page, note-taking can be a collaborative effort. 

Other Cool Features

Follow Me

Follow me allows the teacher to take control of the workspace and all of the screens viewing the space. This is great for my guided lessons. 

Pass Control

This allows the teacher to pass control to a specific student who can now control the workspace. This control can be given to one or multiple students. Small groups could be created and each group could have a turn addressing different questions on the workspace and then the teacher can pass control to the next group when they are ready. 

Device Neutral

I love that amp is device neutral. I have used it on a PC, Mac Desktop, Macbook, iPad 2, iPad mini, and a Chromebook with a single problem. I know that students have used it on their android devices without issues as well. 

Overall Impression:

I loved using SMART amp in my classroom with my students. It is a cloud based tool that allows for more collaboration. This is something that I am always striving to bring to my students. There is a bit of learning curve on figuring out how best to use it in the classroom though. I think that is true for any tool and I know that I need to spend more time with amp to get the most out of it. Again, that has been true for any great tool I use in my classroom. 

SMART amp is a subscription based service and it does offer free 90 Day Trials that are worth exploring if you want to create a large collaborative environment for your students that uses Google Drive. I highly recommend trying amp out and seeing where it fits into your classroom model.