Month: February 2016

Read&Write Extension

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

toolbarRead&Write for Google Chrome is one of those tools that I completely overlook, yet I use almost daily. But this week, I was reminded of how powerful a tool it can be for students. Read&Write offers a range of powerful support tools to help students gain confidence with reading, writing, studying and research. Students are able to hear words, passages, or whole documents read aloud with easy-to-follow highlighting, guiding students through the text as it is read aloud to them. Having documents that the students are writing read aloud has been so powerful when trying to teach about the flow and tone of their writing, even if it is kind of robotic in tone. Thanks to the picture dictionary, students can explore a .pdf or website with the  meaning of words explained with text and pictures. Especially with our English learners, content specific articles can be translated.  Beyond that, when I think to my social studies and science instructions, it is very empowering to have them hear text translated into their other languages. Now, the focus can be on the content being taught, using the same materials that my native English speakers are using.

notesWhen trying to gather resources, using the highlights tool and having them collected is so valuable in making sure that key concepts are not overlooked. I can pull from multiple resources using highlights, and have those highlighted notes instantly compiled into one document which can be easily shared with my students and colleagues. Even more impressive, it will bring the source information with it, helping students to cite their sources. I like to have my students use different color highlights to help them organize ideas as well, which is  a key visual cue for tgathered highlightshem as they begin to compose a written response. Read&Write will also summarize text on websites, which has really helped when trying to assist students in getting the main points of a text when academic language and reading level are a concern.  When creating a document, many of the standard features are available.  Speech-to-text is included with the extension (though I still tend to use Google’s Voice Typing more often).

The Premium version of Read & Write for Google Chrome is Free for Teachers.

If you are a teacher, use this form to enter your information, and you will receive a premium license.


The TAO Of K12 Technology Implementations


by Howard Chan @socratech 

Over the past decade, the explosion of technology initiatives in K12 has seen some amazing successes and colossal failures. Everything from the wildly popular use of Google Apps for Education, to the infamous LA school district doomed 1 billion dollar iPad rollout, K12 technology implementations have run the full spectrum of progression and frustration. And as we continue to roll out 1:1 and other technology initiatives, the discussion must evolve from “what to purchase” to a much broader set of questions that encompass a wide variety of stakeholders.

In order for technology implementations to be successful in schools, there needs to be a healthy communication loop, plan, and support with three groups of stakeholders. I call them the TAO: Teachers, Administration and Operations. The diagram above provides a guide of different items many of these groups deal with in successful technology implementations, but not always bounded in their domains. It is where you typically would see items being discussed, planned and supported. Feel free to use this diagram to help guide your technology implementations. As you can see, there are many variables at play when bringing technology into your school districts. But with building a strong team that includes all members of the TAO, technology implementations will continue to see successes in K12 school environments. I encourage you to add to this growing list as technology implementations continue to evolve by leaving a comment below.

*I already know this list will evolve to include parents, students, and community, but I view this list from the staff running the schools.

This stems from a past blog post I wrote below on the Evolving Role of the K12 Technology Department

There was a time when K12 technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of data information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and data was protected from security breaches. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic programs was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…

In recent years, those ideas above have quickly merged into what I call Education Information Technology, the concept of blending technology with education to support next generation schools and classrooms. The thought of separate entities are quickly becoming the old model, where nowadays, decisions have to be collaboratively made between academics and technologists. Technology decision makers have a crucial role in evolving the educational model for our schools and districts. With the proliferation of online tools, makerspaces, data dashboards and interactive technologies in the classroom, technology decision makers are dealing with far more implications than firewalls and routers. Not only are network infrastructure considerations critical to support the classrooms, but the instructional tools that teachers are using are leaning towards the technology pendulum at exponential rates.

The tech architecture now has multiple layers to design and evaluate, and requires a more comprehensive systems perspective from our technologists. Technologists are now asked to understand how instructional technologies such as learning management systems, social media sites, 3D printers, and video cameras are integrating with information data systems and network infrastructure. Technologists are now asked to balance a fair acceptable use policy to answer security and safety concerns, while providing teachers and students open access to the Internet and social networks. Technologists are now asked to filter student data points and design integrated systems to provide teachers dashboards of information. Technologists are now asked to evaluate digital tools and online curriculum to make decisions on blended learning models. Technologists are now asked to understand parent, student and teacher needs for end-user devices to support 21st century learning. Technologists are now asked to facilitate professional development and develop a culture around 21st century learning. It almost naturally brings up the question…

Do our technology decision makers need an education background to support the next generation school? From my experience, I have seen some amazing teachers handle all services in the technology department, and I have also seen amazing IT folks with compassion and understanding of educator needs. No matter what spectrum the tech decision makers come from, the head of technology need a new set of skills and framework to tackle the rapidly evolving 21st century learning environment.

Cultural Institute

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

History is only made boring by text books. There, I said it. They’ve become so absent of feeling, emotion, or relatability that they become a students’ least liked subject. When I think about history, I find that using anything that can add a human element to a subject is makes it instantly more engaging. But, having access to and ease of exploration of these human elements have always been a struggle for me. Field trips are not always the most practical and my knowledge of art history is somewhat limited. All of that changed when I stumbled across the Google Cultural Institute. With over 6,000,000 photos and artifacts, you have access to the collections of over 1,000 museums.

letterMuseums and curators have already collated and curated exhibits taking photographs, paintings, and letters from various sources into one place. It provides a perfect place to
start your research on certain topics, and it even points you to the sources of those pieces. Students explore digital images and can research using the Google Cultural Institute.

The Explore feature is fantastic, allowing you to look up virtually any item. Search the name of a person, an artifact, or a specific event and you’re ready to go. Yet, with so many artifacts, I really wanted to highlight a few that I find most useful.  Historic Moments is a collection of curated images, sites, artwork, landmarks and other relevant information. When searching for supplements for a unit on the Civil War, I can qtranslationuickly find six different galleries from around the globe, street view maps of the Ford Theatre, and images of artifacts from the time. Each of these images is a great resource, linked for further exploration.  In history, I find this especially useful when asking my students to cite primary sources.  Since these are oftentimes letters and other written documents, the links will take them to the museum link that will have the artifact transcribed (imagine trying to translate old english/handwriting). The descriptions that accompany the image will often add the context that helps make each item more relevant.

The World Wonders is another great aspect of the Google Cultural Institute. Archaeological areas are brought to life, displaying the wonders of the modern and ancient world to anywhere. Using the Street View, Google has made world heritage sites available to users across the globe. In addition, multiple resources are available as well, adding to the depth of possible exploration.


Sales Strategies Translated Into Educator Language

First and foremost, let’s block the image of a sleazy used car sales person from our media temporal lobes as you read this post…

I was one of those educators who came from a different career before being in the classroom. While I spent most of my time as an engineer, a vast majority of it was customer facing as either a systems engineer or sales engineer. My bottom line was to make sure the customer understood the solution and they were successful implementing it. Sound familiar?

As teachers, we are obviously not selling products, but we sure are trying to get our students to do things on an everyday basis. And yes, we definitely don’t want an army of salespeople as teachers (we can call agree to that), but there are some nuggets that have a translation into educator language.

5 Sales Strategies Translated Into Educator Language

Define Your Target Market

Sales 101 – It is important to understand who are the targeted customers and understand what problems you are trying to solve.

Classroom Translation – Know your students and what motivates them.

Determine Your Outreach

Sales 101 – To close the deal, you need to get in front of customers to sell. A savvy salesperson uses a variety of outreach strategies like cold calling, emails, marketing, networking, mixers and even just showing up on customer’s doorstep.

Classroom Translation – Differentiate the way you get your students to into what you are trying to make them do. From sage on the stage to guide on the side, a “withit” teacher will use different approaches to reach their diverse student population.

Know Your Questions

Sales 101 – Sales people look at this as a time to get to know your customer’s needs better. Have a list of questions to get to know your customers and their business needs. Conversely, a savvy salesperson will prepare for potential questions the customer will be asking during the sales call.

Classroom Translation – Two thoughts here. 1. This builds upon defining your target market and focuses in on specific customer needs. Take the time to know students individually, what are interests, motivations, skills, and learning modalities. 2. Visualize your lesson plan and anticipate what questions students will be asked from students. Be prepared.

Deliver and Build

Sales 101 – Returning customers and sustainable business is built from delivering on your products and nurturing lasting relationships. The sales process doesn’t end with customer signing the dotted line.

Classroom Translation – Relationships matter. Teachers who show empathy and love for students typically win at the game of engaging students. One my favorite sayings in education is that “Change Happens At The Speed of Trust.”


Sales 101 – The bottom line in sales is did you make your quota. Typically, companies will have a customer relationships management system (CRM) to track clients, progress, growth, and dollars. Peter Drucker said it best, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Classroom Translation – Whatever we teach in the classroom, we need a way to measure growth, improvement on failures (Fail Forward), and celebration of success. It is also important to monitor your students not just academically, but check-in on other important social, emotional, and life matters.


The Eduneer: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator

by Howard Chan @socratech

InnovationsOver the last few years in education, I have seen an explosion of branded “innovative” ideas that have many of its guiding principles rooted from engineering. Selfishly, it has been a validating feeling that my so-called “rebel” ways of teaching in the past, is seen as now necessary for the future of education. “Innovations” such as Design Thinking, PBL, Deeper Learning, STEM to STEAM, Makerspaces, NGSS Engineering Practices, Blended Learning, FutureReady, and most recently from the White House pushing Computer Science for All, the shift is finally happening.

I grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the roller coaster period of the .com bubble of the late 90’s. Despite my family’s heavy education-career focused background (it was in my blood), I geographically gravitated to the “cool”, fast-paced and high-paying career of engineering. While there were plenty of rewards being an engineer, there were just as many difficult times living the “high-tech” lifestyle…but I will leave that for another post.

I spent a good decade applying my engineering practices as a network engineer, systems engineer and ultimately sales engineer. While the job titles rotated, it fundamentally was based on a key engineering principle: designing solutions for customers. It typically focused on how we can design, sell, train and support customers in their particular business…pretty simple conceptually. But we all know very few do it well, and I quickly learned to embrace failing forward as a key motivating principle to survive in this field. In short, I have failed many times…

Fast forward a decade, I made the leap of faith and became a 6th-grade classroom teacher. I was one of the few engineers that received grant money from the city to become a teacher. The city made a considerable effort to entice engineers to become teachers and paid for credentialing/graduate programs to make it happen. Fortunately for me, I was already soul searching, and it couldn’t have been more timely. I made the teaching leap but never let go of my engineering fundamentals.

The Silicon Valley days continue to stick with me, and it is inspiring to see education embrace many of those principles in modern day pedagogy and curriculum. Below are my guiding reflections in what defines the beautiful marriage between Engineering + Education into what I call the hybrid “Eduneer.” I look forward to seeing how these Eduneering principles continue to manifest in our classrooms and schools all over the world.

7 Guiding Principles: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator = Eduneer

  • Asks the Right QuestionsEduneering
  • Continuous Improvement Cycle
  • Relationships Matter
  • Systems Thinker
  • Seeks Technical Expertise
  • Outcomes Driven
  • Humility

Asks the Right Questions

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Who are my users? audience, customers, stakeholders?
  • Did my original question get answered? Or did it evolve to another question?
  • Who provided input on the question? Intentions?
  • What is the better question?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein

Continuous Improvement Cycle

  • Constant reflection
  • Risk taking while working in vaguery
  • Failing is just fine as we learned something from it
  • Fail forward
  • Quick iterations
  • Design Thinking
  • Engineering Design Process
“People who fail forward are able to see errors or negative experiences as a regular part of life, learn from them, and then move on.” -John Maxwell

Relationships Matter

  • Show love and demonstrate integrity
  • Socially Intelligent
  • Building a network – Who do you know?
  • “You can’t sell anything if you can’t sell yourself”
“Change happens at the speed of trust” -Covey
When I was in sales engineering, I was often partnered with a regional sales rep whose quarterly sales report meant life and death. They were typically driven by the bottom line and were not so concerned about solutions, but product sales. It was that two-team dynamic where I found customers naturally gravitating towards the sales engineer, whose role was to support the solution, not the product sales. These relationships were driven by two things; Can I trust this guy, and is he competent? When trust is built in the relationship, things tend to get accomplished.

Systems Thinker

  • Understand connections
  • Things don’t happen in isolation
  • Systems influence one another within a larger system.
  • Understand the bigger picture
“A bad system will beat a good person every time. Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” -W. Edwards Deming

Seeks Technical Expertise

  • Know your stuff 
  • Surround yourself with people who know their stuff
  • Constant learning
  • Build a personal learning network
“You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert.” -Waitley

Outcomes Driven

  • Project management mindset
  • GSD – Get “Stuff” Done
  • Measuring success, improvement and growth
  • Celebrate and reflect

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” -Thomas Edison


  • Work in progress mindset
  • Be gracious
  • Quiet confidence
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis


The Research Tool

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

Google Docs will forever be my favorite tool.  It was the first thing that really opened my eyes to cloud-based applications. The ability to collaborate, comment on and share documents was a game changer for me as a student, and now as a teacher.  As I continue to work with students on improving their writing, the ability to research without having to leave the document is such a great feature (This post will be written using those features from the research tool). Not only does the research feature save you time, but allows you to easily compile a bibliography of sites that you have visited and used.  With the shift to common core, this is perfect for students as they evaluate a variety of resources, both online and in print.

reasearch tool

In my class, this has been a great tool for introducing how to cite sources and keeping track of those sources for future reference. Any research project in my class needs to start with a brainstorm session, focused on organizing our thoughts about what we know on a topic and areas that we need to further explore. I’ve found that a graphic organizer is a great way to have them start.  Especially when students are trying to make connections to different ideas, being able to quickly add and draw those connections is invaluable. I generally leave this to the students to choose, but the Popplet app is the current favorite with students.  This organizer is really a living document. Students are not only trying to organize what they need to research, bresearchut adding to it as more information becomes available. As resources are gathered, initially in a research document and eventually into a final product,  students can reference relevant information which will allows them to understand the topic in more depth.



The easiest way is to access the research feature is from the ‘Tools’ menu. This will pull up a tab to the right of the screen. From there, you can enter your word or phrase that you would like to research.  You can refine your search by clicking on the icon to the left of the search bar.  By clicking on the google image you can refine your search to Images, Scholar, Quotes or Dictionary. Once you’ve started a search, there are a number of great features that are built into the tool. It immediately sorts a search into personal results and web results.  If you hover over the search result you will see a box pop up with three options. The Preview Box shows you a preview of the website in the search results.  This is a great way to quickly evaluate a source, or to look for something that you’ve seen before.  Working with 4th grade students, they often can tell me everything on a website, without remembering the site’s name or URL. The Insert Link box inserts the words in the search box into your doc and converts them into a hyperlink. Finally, the Cite Box creates a footnote to the website as part of the document.  If the citation format is important to you, you can click the little arrow just under the the search query and then choose MLA, APA or Chicago.


And finally, what elementary essay would be complete without some images?  Again, using the research tool you can search for relevant images. I like that I can continue to teach my students about image usage rights, filtering for free-to-use images easily.  And like the other resources, the dragged image will automatically be cited in the selected citation format.