Edutech for Teachers

Cool Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Project Reimagine Gains Popularity at BAHS

September25

cafe signA few weeks ago I shared a post about the brand-new media center in my district, one that was recently featured in the Daily Herald, a local newspaper. Since then, Project Reimagine—as I have named it—has continued to gain popularity, not only with our students, but with administrators in other districts who have begun to visit our innovative space. Other local media outlets have stopped by to check things out as well.

In fact, Project Reimagine was highlighted in an article that appeared in the Altoona Mirror last week so once again, I thought it was worth sharing…

B-A creates media center in library
By Walt Frank

Bellwood-Antis High School students have a new place to do their assignments and have a snack at the same time.

A section of the high school library has been transformed into a media center. It’s where school board members held their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

The media center was the brainchild of Director of Instructional and Media Technology Jamie Forshey.

Front L-R Alanna Vaglica, Brandie Ray, Benjamin Eamigh and Alex Foose. Rear L-R Jenna Bartlett and Alivia Jacobs. All 10th graders. (Photo courtesy of J.D. Clavich)

Front L-R Alanna Vaglica, Brandie Ray, Benjamin Eamigh and Alex Foose. Rear L-R Jenna Bartlett and Alivia Jacobs. All 10th graders. (Photo courtesy of J.D. Cavich)

“Transforming our traditional library into a more modern space that has the look and feel of a Barnes & Noble/Panera has been a vision of mine for a number of years. Because students can now complete assignments, collaborate with peers on projects, study and even grab a snack in a more hip, relaxed environment, one in which they have access to their mobile devices, I feel we are building what is becoming a very popular learning hub in our school,” Forshey said.

“The purpose of the media center is to provide the students with a location where they can come together to research, collaborate, read, have breakfast and/or snacks, download or upload assignments and learn entrepreneurial skills by working in the cafe,” said Superintendent Thomas McInroy. The media center includes industrial-themed furniture, flooring, shelving and lighting in a brightly painted space. An office area has been converted into a cafe that is sells snacks and drinks but will eventually offer lattes, coffees, soft pretzels and pastries, Forshey said.

The media center/cafe is expected to benefit Bellwood-Antis students.
“It is our hope that students will be able to research information in a meaningful way and apply the information to solve problems, explore their world and to better understand humanity. We also hope that the media center will bring the student body closer together, increasing school spirit and reducing bullying,” McInroy said.

“The addition of the media center combined with our iPad initiative will change the face of teaching and learning in the middle/high school. In time, we plan to add a makerspace to this area so students can explore, invent, create and problem solve with all kinds of materials and other forms of technology,” Forshey said.

Forshey said a lot of material was donated for the project. For example, a new countertop was donated by Cabinetree while other a refrigerator and Keurig machines were provided by anonymous donors. Several local businesses worked with the district to provide the best deals possible for furniture, supplies and other equipment necessary to get the vision off the ground, Forshey said.

The majority of the first phase of this project was funded by the Bellwood-Antis School District Foundation and Dan Himes Construction.
“Dan and Crystal Himes worked endless hours with me during the summer months to renovate the space before the start of the new school year. Without all of these groups and individuals as well as the support of our school board, administration and custodial staff, this project could have never come to fruition like it has,” Forshey said.

Forshey said her family helped out with the project by making a $1,000 donation.

Walt Frank can be reached at frank@altoonamirror.com.

A high five to Walt for wrting a super cool article about our project!

Stay tuned for more updates as well as student reaction to their new learning hub…

In the meantime, check out a visual timeline of the project to see how the space came to life here.

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Diigo Weekly Bookmarks

September21

diigo iconWhat’s new this week in my Diigo bookmarks? Four really cool and useful resources that the math gurus can use to gamify their classrooms! Be sure to add these gems to your edtech toolbox. Check ’em out below!

» Mangahigh.com

Play math, love math with this Flash-based platform containing games, tutorials and quizzes, all aligned with Common Core standards. A great way to expose K-10 students with a wide variety of math fundamentals, from addition and subtraction to beginning algebra concepts.

» Sumdog

A site for kids to practice math skills while playing fun, flash-based games against friends, classmates or students from around the world. Activities are free and individualized according to ability level. Unlock additional games with a premium subscription.

» Shikaku Madness

If you’re a puzzle maniac, you’ll love this fun and challenging logic game. Bust your brain as you try to figure out how to completely cover the game grid using squares and rectangles. Play online and/or on an iOS device!

» 5 Dice

An iOS app which practices the order of operations. Compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links can be found here.

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15 Things Every Teacher Should Try This School Year

September19

tech-back-to-school-blogOK, by now it’s probably pretty safe to say that the bulletin boards are hung, the lessons plans are rolling and Open House is crossed off the list for another year. So take a deep breath and give yourself a high five… I’m sure you’re new school year if off to an awesome start!

But don’t get too comfy because now it’s time to take that blank canvas and fill it with some super cool digital learning opportunities that will transform your classroom into a place where students love to learn!

So, where should you begin? Well, check out the infographic shown below for some ideas to kick start a brand new technology-based concept in your space!

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Of course, don’t sweat it if you’ve never heard of these topics. Just Google one or more of them—and you will be amazed at the resources you can locate to make any of these suggestions a reality! Remember, integrating new activities takes time, patience, trial and error, and a good dose of humor! Just find what works best for you and your students, and you’ll have a great year learning new skills together!

Thanks to Sylvia Duckworth and Austin Gagnier for combining their talents to create this awesome sketch note!

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Diigo Weekly Bookmarks

September5

diigo iconWhat’s new this week in my Diigo bookmarks? Check out the links shown below for some of the latest and greatest web tools and resources that can be utilized to incorporate technology into your classroom!

» A Google a Day

An online game from Google which involves a player solving a lateral thinking puzzle by using Google to find the answer. A new puzzle is added every day. The questions may be any of the following categories: Sport, Science, Pop Culture, History, Arts and Literature or Geography.

» PlagTracker

A free online plagiarism detection service that checks whether similar content appears elsewhere on the web. If so, the tool lists all of the sources from where the text has been copied.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links can be found here.

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Project Reimagine: A New Learning Hub for B-A Students

August27

cafe signOK… So, for those of you who tune into my space, you’re probably wondering why I’ve basically dropped off of the blogosphere grid for the majority of this summer… Well, since being hired for a new tech position in my District, I’ve had the awesome opportunity to work on three super cool projects that will change the face of teaching and learning in our schools: A 1:1 iPad initiative in Grades K-12; the transformation of our traditional MS/HS library into a modern-day media center; and the development of an elementary makerspace.

As you can imagine, implementing projects of this magnitude required a great deal of time; therefore, I was unable to be as devoted to writing as I have been in the past. Although that aspect has been a bummer, playing a role in moving our district forward in these areas has been an amazing experience!

In any event, our new media center venture—which I have named Project Reimagine—was recently featured in the Daily Herald, one of our local newspapers so I thought I’d share the article… Check it out!

B-A to open media center for middle, high school
By Adeena Harbst, Editor

This school year will mark a small moment in history at Bellwood-Antis School District as a vibrant new media center is opened in the library.

“It has bold colors and barn wood. It stuns you,” said Jamie Forshey, BASD director of instruction, technology and media, who had the vision for a media center for years. “When I talked about it, it was hard for others to envision.”

The media center was modeled to offer a Barnes and Noble/Panera Bread/Starbucks modern-industrial feel, and administrators and staff think it will give students a small taste of college life and its popular studying atmospheres.

High school students can enter the nook in the mornings, during study halls or other down times to study and do work, and also get a snack; middle school students will have more supervised access. All students will have access to iPads through a district initiative and will be permitted to use smart phones via a revised policy.

B-A high school student Kermit Foor; B-A director of instruction, technology and media Jamie Forshey; and Superintendent Dr. Tom McInroy pose at the ordering window to the middle/high school’s new media center café which will be open to students and staff this school year.

B-A high school student Kermit Foor; B-A director of instruction, technology and media Jamie Forshey; and Superintendent Dr. Tom McInroy pose at the ordering window to the middle/high school’s new media center café which will be open to students and staff this school year.

“It’s a huge motivation and a privilege,” said Forshey, who has worked at the district for 30 years. “It’s just not something that’s typical. It’s kind of breaking the mold.”

With that privilege, said Forshey, comes responsibility. And she forsees students learning about media, technology, time management and more. With decreased use of the library over the years, this is a way to motivate students to step into the library, and even into school.

“We have to tap into students’ interests. If pretzels and drinks help, so be it,” said Forshey. “When you can get kids to school and excited to be at school and have positive attitudes, that’s when the learning can take place.”

Forshey, along with district Superintendent Dr. Tom McInroy and others, visited Elizabeth Forward School District earlier in the year to check out its iPad initiative and discovered the high school had a similar media center.

“To see that in action and see it is successful was exciting,” said Forshey. “When you have that vision and actually go to schools that implement it and see it in action, it becomes a no-brainer. My original idea was small and it snowballed into a larger-scale project.”

At Elizabeth Forward, school attendance reportedly increased, drop out rates decreased, and the number of library books signed out increased by 30 percent. Also, the number of students attending cyber/charter school decreased and those students returned to the district.

“They had over 80 kids in cyber and charter school and now there are under 10 because of the things they’re doing,” pointed out Dr. McInroy. For B-A, he said, “It’s a work in progress, it won’t happen overnight. But it’s a really good start and it’s fun. I haven’t been this excited about education in a decade.”

The Nutrition Group will staff and stock the center’s kitchenette which used to be an office. Special education students will help run the café. They’ll learn real-life working skills through taking orders, running register, and serving food and drinks. Administration and staff expect it will be an opportunity for other students to join in as well.

Student visitors can use their school breakfast/lunch accounts at the café, but even without food and drinks, the space is still inviting.
The center took many hours over the summer to complete, and there are still a few finishing touches to be made. But it has come much further along than Forshey dreamed.

“I’ve been wanting to do it for a number of years now…I’ve been researching for years,” she said. “The students asked about it at the end of last year, and all I told them was something would be different. I thought maybe it would be only painted walls.”

The project got support; donors, community members and businesses stepped up. Shelves were moved, books were shifted and older ones were placed into storage. Old projectors, typewriters, and card catalogs went and space was made.

B-A student Kermit Foor and B-A Foundation President Crystal Himes earlier this week move a loveseat into the new media center at the B-A middle/high school library.

B-A student Kermit Foor and B-A Foundation President Crystal Himes earlier this week move a loveseat into the new media center at the B-A middle/high school library.

Now, a third of the library is vivd green and orange, with a striped awning above an open order window to the kitchenette with a fancy fridge. A denim-looking couch, loveseat and chair and industrial-style stools and high top tables are in place. There is barn wood, new flooring, a chalk board for specials, and a colored light-up Café sign.

“The whole community has really jumped in. This has cost the taxpayers nothing,” said McInroy, standing proudly in the new space.
Crystal Himes, president of B-A Foundation and her husband Dan’s business, Himes Construction, donated many hours of work and at least $3,500 towards the project.

“They have been extremely supportive and encouraging. It’s been pretty awesome to work with them to create this vision,” said Forshey, who attended B-A with Himes. “This has been our major project to give back to the school and the community for what we received from both.”

“I just think it’s a great project for the kids,” said Himes. “It’s fantastic. I’m all about the kids here at the school, so anything we can do to improve education, improve life skills…it’s just a great accomplishment.”

Though a few students have been a part of making the project happen, many have only caught glimpses of the work on social media.
“They cannot wait to come back to school,” said Forshey. “It’s really interesting and cool to see that a change like this could be a catalyst to get some of them to come to school.”

Student Kermit Foor who has helped with the project, said, “I’m very excited for it. I can’t wait to see it up and running and see the students interact with it.”

High School Principal Rick Shreier, Assistant Principal Cathy Adams, and Middle School Principal Don Wagner all shared positive comments and excitement for the new media center. Teachers will be able to take classes to the space, which is expected to seat at least 25-30 people at a time, and enjoy their planning periods there. There is also an office for a student help desk where students will help teachers and peers with technology.

Forshey said it will be a space for communication, collaboration, and relationship building; a place with a positive energy and vibe.

Adeena Harbst can be reached at aharbst@thedailyherald.net.

Check out the visual timeline of the project to see how the space came to life:

For the past 20+ years…

IMG_5737

The transformation begins in early July…

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Mid July: All books from one section of the library were relocated to other areas; Old carpet removed…

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Mid July: Bold colors are added to the space; Old ceiling tiles are removed so new ones can be installed…

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Late July: Additional colors are incorporated; An office is converted into a Tech Support/Help Desk area for students and teachers…

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Early August: Some Tech Club students get their first glimpse of the new space…

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Early August: Other Tech Club students check out the new space for the first time; New flooring finished; Concrete countertops and serving window installed…

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Mid August: The finishing touches were made to Phase 1 of the project—new flooring, barn wood trim, a chalkboard to advertise cafe specials and some cool decor…

IMG_7887

Week of August 22: Although we’re waiting for a few pieces of furniture to arrive, breakfast was served to our faculty and support staff during a back to school in-service program…

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A shout out to Adeena for wrting such an awesome article about our project! ♥

Stay tuned for more updates as well as student reaction to their new learning hub…

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Scale Your Images with Ease!

July12

Recently, I was attempting to load an image to a web site, but the file was way too large so I received an error message. Of course, I then accessed one of my go-to tools for getting the job done: Scale Your Image. I have previously written about this awesome resource, but I thought I should bring back some tech-y!

So, whenever you need a quick and easy way to resize an image without having to use a full-size image editing tool like Gimp or Photoshop, then be sure to check out Scale Your Image. This free utility allows users to upload an image, specify the desired dimensions and then download the resized image. Scale Your Image also provides users with rotation and zooming tools as well as the option to save in one of three file formats: jpg, png and gif.

It’s that simple! Be sure to add this gem to your teacher techbox!

Classroom Connection:

Use Scale Your Image when you (or your students) want to reduce the pixels and/or overall size of an image for print, email and/or use in web sites, wikis and blogs.

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Diigo Weekly Bookmarks

July10

diigo iconWhat’s new this week in my Diigo bookmarks? Check out the links shown below for seven really cool and useful apps that students can utilize to demonstrate knowledge and creativity in your classroom and/or to learn math, science, geography, music and more!

» Virtuoso Piano Free 3

Teach basic keyboard skills using this iOS app. Additional instruments can be purchased within the app for $0.99 each.

» Learn the World

Test students’ knowledge of countries, capitals, and continents with this iOS app. By completing multiple-­choice quizzes, they can earn flags of countries from around the globe. And the best part? No passport required!

» Virtual Frog Dissection

Aimed at a middle school audience, this iOS app offers an educational alternative to physical dissection. Students learn about dissection tools as well as a frog’s anatomy and organs.

» Geoboard

An iOS or Android app for learning about geometry. Students can use the virtual manipulative to make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, congruence, fractions and more!

» Toontastic

An iOS storytelling app that enables kids to draw, animate and share their own cartoons with friends and family around the world.

» Super Duper StoryMaker

Primary students can craft their own stories with this iOS app using text, images, photos, sounds and drawings. Stories can be saved, printed and/or shared with others via e-mail.

» Tales2go

An iOS audiobook app that provides access to more than 5,000 titles. Use as a literacy tool to develop vocabulary, fluency and comprehension skills via school-owned and/or BYOD devices.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links can be found here.

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Diigo Weekly Bookmarks

June26

diigo iconWhat’s new this week in my Diigo bookmarks? Check out the links shown below for some of the latest and greatest web tools that can be added to your edtech toolbox for the upcoming school year!

» Pinstamatic

A tool that allows users to create a variety of items to add to Pinterest boards including website snapshots, pins of Twitter profiles and Spotify tracks.Great for generating cool educational boards!

» Photovisi

Design unique photo collages and social media covers with ease using this free online tool.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links can be found here.

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Monitor Classroom Noise Level with Bouncy Balls

June25

OK, so what teacher doesn’t need a new classroom management gimmick every now and then? Well, when the need arises, look no further than Bouncy Balls, a free online web site that activates the user’s microphone and detects noise level. The more noise in the classroom, the more the balls bounce.

An example of what Bouncy Balls looks like when the classroom is silent.

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An example of what Bouncy Balls looks like when the classroom is noisy.

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Classroom Connection:

Use Bouncy Balls when you need a neat way to monitor the noise level in your classroom—especially during cooperative learning, pair-share, literature circle or other group activities. Another great aspect of this tool is that it teaches students self-monitoring skills, especially if the site is projected to an interactive whiteboard.

Be sure to add this gem to your edtech toolbox for the upcoming school year!

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Diigo Weekly Bookmarks

June19

diigo iconWhat’s new this week in my Diigo bookmarks? Check out the links shown below for some of the latest and greatest web tools that can be added to your edtech toolbox for the upcoming school year!

» PicPlayPost

An iOS and Android app that makes it super easy to combine different types of media (photos, videos, GIFs and music) into a collage that can be shared via social media networks.

» Bulk QR Code Generator

A bulk QR Code generator that allows users to create multiple QR codes for free and then download them as a png, jpg, svg or zip files. ideal for making class sets and/or badges for conferences and meetings.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links can be found here.

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Looking for some technology integration ideas to enhance your classroom lessons? Then be sure to check out my "Tech Tips" for the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools, applications and web sites that can be incorporated into activities and/or projects. Although some posts may not be applicable to your content area or grade level, be sure to check back often as I will be varying ideas in order to provide resources across the K-12 curriculum.

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