Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you a safe night of haunting! 
Happy Halloween from your Ed Tech Team. 
2013 Canyons District (costumed) Educational Technology Specialist Team 

Monday, October 28, 2013


Even though blendspace ( has been around for quite some time, I was thinking it would be a good idea to review.  This site allows you to easily drop content into a nice format, easy for kids and adults to navigate.  You can select colors, themes, and layouts. 

For this example, I used blendspace for the PG&L (Professional Growth and Leadership) class for the teachers to review the articles that they are assigned for that night's class.  You can also search within blendspace for content.  In this example, I used some content that I located, and some from their search engine.  I was very impressed with the ease of use.  Check it out.

iOS 7 Battery Saving Tips

iOS is great, but it also drains your iOS device's battery very quickly. Here are 3 easy tips to help save your battery on you iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device that is running iOS 7.

A Conference in Your Jammies

There are now several online conferences available throughout the year. However, my favorite still remains the K12 Online Conference which is held in October. The conference consists of recorded presentations (10-20 min. each). 2 to 4 are released daily throughout the 10 day run of the conference.

The theme of the conference this year is Transforming Learning and began on October 14th with a fantastic keynote by Shannon McClintock Miller entitled Transforming Learning....One Voice at a Time.

The 4 strands of this year's conference are: Open Learning, Outside Learning, Leading Learning, and Building Learning.

Last week (the week of October 21st) the first two strands were offered. The latter strands are offered this week (October 28th).

The best thing about this conference is the presentations are all online and you can view them at any time. You can also view presentations from the previous 7 conferences. You can view the presentations at, click on 2013 and you will see the list of presentations available.

The conference is also offered as an iTunesU course that you can subscribe to in iTunes on your computer, or iTunesU on your iOS device.

So if you are looking for some great learning, join in on the K12 Online Conference you will be sure to find something of value to you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Podcasts: Expanding Your PLN

Have you ever heard of a Podcast? Do you know what it is? Have you listened or watched one? Well, if you haven’t heard about them, then this is your opportunity to learn. Podcasts are either audio or video and they tell a story or give you information. Most are based on a subject. People who have their own podcast usually love what they do or want to help other people learn more about their interest.
I listen to them to learn more about the subject that they are about. I listen to a few Mac Podcasts. Some are teaching me new things about the mac and others are about Mac news. One is daily but most of them are weekly. They range in length from 15 minutes to 2 hours each podcast.
I enjoy listening to them. They are all part of my PLN. I learn a lot of new things from them. Here are a few that I listen to: Mac Power Users, For Mac Eyes Only, Mac OS Ken, and Today in IOS are my Mac Podcast and I found them on iTunes. I also found one that I enjoy listening to just for fun. I’m a Star Trek fan and this podcast is starting at the very beginning of the first series and talking about each episode. It is called Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.
There are Podcasts about any subject that you are interested in or want to learn about. I hope that you will look into them and start learning.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mail Merge in Office 2011

Mail Merge in Office 2011 is a feature that is useful to most members of a school community at some point.  Whether is is creating labels for teachers to use in the classroom, secretaries creating address labels and letters to send home, or just keeping your address book organized, Mail Merge is a great tool.  Our Elementary Education Team Lead, Kelly Dumont, held a helpful training offered to Canyons School District's Educational Support Personnel.  We learned how to take a spreadsheet created in Excel and do a Mail Merge to address labels and to a letter in Microsoft Word.  I attended this hour long course and gained great information to share with the ESP's in my buildings and it was great to participate in a training hosted by Kelly.  I have included and article that includes helpful hints and instructions for Mail Merge in Office 2011.  Mail merge and Office 2011 - Macworld

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Canvas?

In a recent CSD EdTech blogpost (October 16, 2013) by Jared Ward, he states, “More and more teachers are using Canvas for their course instruction.” He also prompts readers for their comments, so here is my response.

Are more and more teachers using Canvas for their course instruction? While I agree that Canvas is an incredible tool for a blended learning environment (and one I use daily with my own classes), I would argue that more teachers are only THINKING about using Canvas for their course instruction than are actually using it.  Teachers are questioning ‘Why Canvas?’ and are finding it difficult to move past that one question. Maybe answering this simple question was missed in our initial training series? Regardless, let’s back up and try to answer this seemingly simple question.

So Why Canvas?  Canvas offers many excellent reasons to use it for classroom instruction. My suggestion? Try choosing at least ONE reason (1 feature of Canvas) that you think will be beneficial for your classroom and work on developing that ONE piece.  Don’t be overwhelmed by everything Canvas can do for you – start small and slowly build.

Read about other Canvas Use Stories at!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Utah Write

Utah Write is a formative writing assessment that is now available to ALL Utah teachers.  The new features in Utah Write for 2013-2014 include:
  • New pre-packaged writing prompts with video, graphics and reading passages for grades 3-12 for all three of the Common Core writing categories. (Argumentative, Informative/Explanatory, Narrative)
  • A new module for creating district/school-wide performance tasks.
  • A new scoring tool using a 0-3 scoring rubric for teacher to evaluate students writing for textual evidence and content. 
  • New reports displaying students performance by Common Core writing category.
 Utah Write is free to all 5th and 8th grade students.  If you are looking to purchases Utah Write, click on the button in the lower right hand corner of the website and look for the following button.  If you are a teacher looking to purchase Utah Write, it is $5.71 per student.  This program is highly recommended to help prepare students with their writing skills, not only for DWA, but for the SAGE end-of-year testing. 

Creating A Teacher Account
1.  If you are a teacher and interested in signing up for a free account, the following button "Sign Up Here" is in the bottom right hand corner of

2.  Enter you personal information.
3.  Enter your district access code.  (You can obtain this from your Ed Tech in your school.)

Creating Student Accounts
1.  Adding Students One by One
  • Click Add
  • Add New
  • Input Needed Information
There are three other strategies for creating student accounts and you can see your Ed Tech about those strategies.

As a teacher, you can assign pre-packaged essay prompts or teacher created prompts that can be assigned to your students to write about in their accounts.  Student results can be viewed as a report and teacher feedback can be left on student's essays.   Make sure you see your Ed Tech today for more detailed information about Utah Write. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

ComicLife2 for Writing in Elementary Language Arts

Fifth Graders at Willow Springs Elementary are learning to use ComicLife2 to support their reading and writing lessons this year.  Using a class set of MacBook Pros these avid readers are starting to make book projects in the form of a one page comic teaser.

As a lesson to get started using the program, each student made their own one page summary of the History of Utah.  It was easy for kids to dive into the program by following step-by-step instructions on adding images, speech bubbles, text boxes, and titles.

Lesson Plan:  After a brief discussion about "chunking" text into small readable selections and using images to engage readers, the students were off and running with the ComicLife2 program.

Step 1 - Open the program and select a new comic using the template "Mesa" since it has a nice southwest feel to it, perfect for a comic about Utah.

Step 2 - Edit the title to say "The Story of Utah"

Step 3 - Add a picture of Utah and State Seal to the upper left image block.  Students will need direct instruction on how to find images in the photo finder area by navigating to the folder set up by teacher with images downloaded ahead of time from the web.

Step 4 - Add a picture of Coronado, as well as text bubble and text box.  Students will then require 5-10 minutes of practice time as they learn to resize and adjust text features.  Suggestions for text bubble - "Wow, this place es muy bonita!" or "What a great place to build a ski resort!"

Step 5 - Insert new boxes as place holders for remaining pictures.

Step 6 - More Practice Time! - Let the students explore the program as they learn to resize and move images in order to make the most visually appealing page.  Invite students to also add additional text boxes and speech bubbles where they feel it is most appropriate.  5th graders in Utah have already learned a lot about their state, so let them share their knowledge with interesting facts and points of interest.

Step 7 - Have students save their work and give them a specific location on their computers or school network folder system.  Remind students to save as they go and use the "Command-Z" keyboard shortcut to undo any mistakes.

Step 8 - Explain the difference between saving a ComicLife2 project and exporting an image or PDF.  Allow students the opportunity to both save their project and export the finished product in a file format that they can either email, post online to a LMS like Edmodo or even publish to a blog or website.

If you would like a sample Rubric for this activity, check out this Google Doc.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vine in the Classroom? Really?

Vine is an app used by smartphones and tablets created by Twitter that allows you to create, record, and post a short six-second (that's it) video clip that can be shared via Twitter and Facebook.  It's free, simple to use, and students, not to mention teachers, can have fun creating these short videos.  Video and audio is recorded by tapping the screen and when you lift up your finger, it stops recording.  Teachers have had students create projects using Vine and it has been amazing to watch the creativity that stems from students.  Some of the ideas I have seen for using Vine in the Classroom are:
  • Using Vine in the Science Labs
  • Video Pen Pals
  • Class Book Reviews
  • Simple How-Tos
  • Teachers or students can announce homework on a class blog or web site
  • Book Trailers
These ideas are just a few.  How can you see using Vine in the classroom? 

Check out the following site below.  Under Four Great Ideas Fresh Off the Vine, there are some great examples of Vine created videos for Education.

 Five-Minute Film Festival: Vine and Instagram Video in the Classroom  Edutopia, 9-27-2013. 

Canvas for Teachers

More and more teachers in Canyons District are beginning to use Canvas for part of their course instruction. The primary idea is to help teachers and students succeed in a Blended Learning environment; or in a classroom where part of the instruction is delivered online. Canvas allows teachers to post and grade assignments, have class discussions, give collaborative assignments, peer reviews, quizzes, and much more. Canvas also give teachers access to powerful analytics tools so that they can see which students are engaged and which are not. Formative evaluations are easy, effective, and comprehensive.

We are working to make the transition to integrating Canvas into our schools a smooth one. We know there will be concerns as we move forward. Here are some of the common questions we are hearing:

Question: Will Canvas replace teachers? or, Are we building the machine that will replace us?
Answer: Envisioning a future where robot teachers are rolling around the classroom isn't a new concept, but we don't think this will happen any time soon. Why? Because great teaching is complex and constantly changing. Your students' needs are just as diverse, nuanced, and quickly evolving as they are. Canvas adds the ability to connect with students anywhere and at any time. It allows you to (and we encourage you to) use your voice or a webcam to keep that valuable humanity in the teacher-student relationship.

Note: If you have 20 mins, this TED Talk from one of the creators of Coursera, one of the largest providers of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is well worth your time to watch.

Question: Can I share my course/content with other teachers?
Answer: Yes! Currently in Canvas, you can add other teachers to your courses so that they can copy your content into their own courses. This make working in collaborative teams, departments, and PLCs much easier. We are working on helping schools, departments, and teachers in building question banks for Canvas Quizzes that can be shared with others. We hope to have training materials and other documentation available for this later in the year.

Question: Do I have to use Canvas? or, When can I begin using Canvas?
Answer: All CSD teachers have access to Canvas and all secondary students (6-12) have Canvas accounts already created. Some groups are being asked to use Canvas this year as we all work together to learn more about this system and how it can benefit our students. Groups who are actively being trained with Canvas include:
  • 8th and 12th  grade Language Arts
  • Middle School Social Studies
  • World Languages Teachers
  • Physics, Biology, and Chemistry
  • Canvas Implementation Program (teachers who began using Canvas last school year.)
Other teachers are welcome to use Canvas. Training for all teachers is managed through our Canvas Fast Track course. We know that it will be difficult to connect with every teacher and answer every question about Canvas, so we created this course as a way for teachers to learn the parts of Canvas they want to learn, when they are ready.  To fully participate in this course, please contact your school Ed Tech Specialist.

Question: Does Canvas replace my class website?
Answer: Not really. Think of your website as a library of information. You may have videos, handouts, and other files on your website. You can use all of these in Canvas as embedded links. Canvas gives your students the ability to interact with your library. Not only can they download your handouts, but they can edit them and resubmit them to you as their completed assignment. And, you can grade that assignment, give students the assignment to review the work done by their peers, give feedback, and allow for re-submissions. Not only can they watch your video, but they can leave comments, ask questions, share ideas, and even create their own videos.

Canvas can be a great tool for giving and receiving feedback to and from students. It can be a great way to engage students in your classroom. What is your experience with Canvas so far? How are you or will you use Canvas in your teaching? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Keyboard Shortcuts Save Time

Time is precious.  The quicker you can get menial tasks completed allows for more time on more important tasks.  Learning keyboard shortcuts, like ctrl + c or command + c to copy, keeps your fingers on the keyboard instead of moving them to the mouse or trackpad and can help save time.
Most shortcuts involve the command () key on a Macintosh computer or the control (ctrl) key on a PC.

Listed below are some of the most frequently used keyboard shortcuts (Source: with permission).

For a complete list of Macintosh keyboard shortcuts, click here.
For a complete list of Windows keyboard shortcuts, click here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ted Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing

TED-Ed is a website for teachers and learners to find and create lessons worth sharing.  It is a site that allows teachers to find educational videos that are accompanied by lessons.  These lessons include multiple choice quizzes, open-ended questions/discussions, and links to more information about the material.  Each lesson can then easily be flipped for use with the flipped classroom teaching model.  This site also provides the opportunity to take any educational video from YouTube, TED Talks, TEDx, etc. and add sections to a lesson page where questions, links, and resources can be added.  The video below introduces the vision of the TED-Ed creators to provide lessons worth sharing.

Since being introduced to TED-Ed a few weeks ago, I have been excited about learning and becoming familiar with the content available.  Teachers could use these videos and lessons as a whole class, small group, individual, and/or as homework.  Head over to to get started exploring videos, lessons, and way to flip them in you classroom!

The other exciting TEDx news is the upcoming TEDxCSD event coming to Canyons School District in November.  This event is another reason I'm feeling excited about TED Talks and the opportunity to share "ideas worth spreading."  The TED Mission of sharing content and information feels energizing to me.  If you are interested in this event register to attend today!

Friday, October 11, 2013

BlendSpace and Combining Electronic Resources for Lessons

BlendSpace (Formerly EdCanvas)
As I have worked to prepare materials for teachers that will show them how to utilize the tools available online, I have found one tool that really helps to make this more interactive.  We are preparing courses using Canvas as our online course builder.  This is a powerful engine that can give teachers the power to have quality blended instruction.  In seeking ways to make this Canvas tool more interactive, Blendspace has been a great tool for this.

It allows you to create what I think of as a quilt of education.  With each slide, you can include pictures, videos, text, web links, and even quizzes.  This can be easily embedded with an HTML code.  It's a way to help students have an interactive content with a limitless amount of electronic resources!  I'll probably write more on BlendSpace.

For fun, I made this BlendSpace on Oklahoma in my Endorsement course.  It is silly, however it showcases some of the things you can do in BlendSpace!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Film Festival Advertisement Category

Last year Canyons School District added a new category to our annual District film festival. For the first time, students were able to partner with local businesses to produce commercial advertisements. Students and businesses had positive experiences, and we all learned a lot from our first attempt. Check out some of last year's winning ads:


We are excited to announce that we will again have an advertisement category in this year's film festival. Now is the time for students to consider signing up to participate in the advertisement category for the 5th Annual Canyons District Film Festival!

Why create an ad for the film festival? This is a great opportunity for students to build skills in planning, organization, writing, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Students learn what it means to commit to completing a project within deadlines where real-world clients are invested. On top of everything, they have the opportunity to have fun while building a creative project and interacting with business leaders in their community.

Teachers, please help us spread the word about this exciting film festival category and encourage your students to participate. Creating an entry for this category would particularly benefit students who are interested film, broadcasting, art, and graphic design. We encourage teachers involved in Consumer Science, Film-making, Student News, Arts/Graphic Design, DECA, FBLA, and Business Marketing to inform your students about this great opportunity.

For more information about the advertising category and all things film festival, visit the Ed Tech Pro Learning website. Keep in mind that although film festival entries are not due until March, students must register for the advertisement category by the first week of December.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

CSDDOCS.ORG is Increasing Communication and Helping Going Paperless

Union Middle School’s Counseling office will be using CSD docs this year to track and monitor 4 year planning and goal setting with our 8th grade students, formally known as SEOP.  

Screenshot of master document students will be filling out.
This is crucial because it ensures proper transitioning for our 8th graders to our high school staff.  The high school counselors will be invited to the student’s document and that will ensure that they have instant and current access to student planning.  They can use this in a variety of ways, but particularly it will benefit our student’s future planning and college course access in high school. The amount of memory in the CSDDOCS makes it a much better source than any other system, such as dropbox.  It allows school staff to store student information for multiple years and could even be a significant help in post high school transition as well.

Aside from the benefits of helping students transitioning to high school and making student information available instantly CSDDOCS will help reduce the amount of paper used in our school district.  For example, in prior years Union’s counselors would print 2-3 sheets per student during SEOPs, if you don’t count re-printing for updates or lost papers.  That is nearly two reams of paper saved.  While it may not seem like a lot, it is one example how Google Docs will help to save paper.