Great Presentation at ASCD

#edtech #ascd13 #atomiclearningIf you are going to ASCD in Chicago, I'llsee you there. Don't forget to stop by booth #541 and chat with my friends from Atomic Learning, Susan and Chris about some of their new solutions for schools. Also, be sure to check out Susan's session: Improving Student Learning Through Teacher Technology Training. For a preview of the session, check out this video:

TITLE: Improving Student Learning Through Teacher Technology Training SESSION #: 1450 DAY: Saturday, March 16, 2013 TIME: 5:00 - 6:30 pm PRESENTER: Susan Williams

Filmmaking with Kids and iPads

#edtech #mlearning #ipaded

Yesterday after school my fourth-quarter filmmaking group made up of fourth and fifth grade students, met for the first time to start filming "The Ghost of Bethke." Although we have been writing the script and planning the movie for the past few weeks, this was the first time we met to start filming, but this time there is a twist. This time we are filming our movie exclusively on a new iPad (the iPad 3). I was impressed with the new camera on this iPad and I wanted to see if a movie could really be shot and edited on it.

There were a few things we added to the iPad to make filming with it easier. First, we added a wide-angle lens (magnetic) to the lens of the new iPad. Next, we added a Tascam iM2 directional microphone so that we would get better sound. And finally we added a tripod mount to keep the iPad steady.

I must admit, filming was easy on the new iPad, the big screen made it easy for me as the teacher to check to make sure our 10-year camera operator had a good shot. We could also easily review a shot to show our actors what needed to be fixed for the next take. It is nice to be able to gather 8 or 9 students around the iPad to explain something. At first I though the big screen of the iPad would make it awkward, but it turned out to be very helpful.

We should wrap up filming by the end of May, but I will keep you posted as we continue filming and editing on the new iPad.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary

Bigger Projects = Bigger Learning

#edtech #elearning - This week I am speaking at a regional teacher’s meeting about some of the projects I do with my elementary students. As I was preparing my speech it  got me thinking...

Image via Wikipedia

The start of a new school year also means the start of my before and after school clubs. Every week I meet with students who want to be podcasters, movie makers or robotic engineers. Today I would like to talk about my movie makers.

Movie making is a big deal in our elementary school. This year we have taken it to a new level, we want to make movies with a message, instead of just the dramatic one that we have done in the past. I guess I had been reading too many books this past summer and now it shows in my clubs, I want my students to make a difference -- and they can do this with their movie making.

Like many elementary schools we have a set of school values that we promote in everything that we do; Respect, Responsibility, Integrity and Kindness. These four values have deep roots in our school and in our teaching. We now make movies about these values, in fact, I stole the idea from

The one thing about making movies with 4th and 5th grade students is that it is a really big project for them to wrap their little minds around. Some would even say too big. We do weeks of planning followed by weeks of shooting, and anyone who has ever been involved in a shoot knows that it is one of the most boring thing to be a part of. It is a lot of sitting around and being quiet, waiting for your turn to be in a shot. The reality of it is that this kind of work in important for students to learn, to be part of a big picture with no immediate payback. Which can be tough for students of fast-food generation. But my kids stick with it and keep coming back week after week until we are done shooting.

The payback they do get comes a few weeks later when the final movie has been edited and it is up on YouTube for their family and friends to see, not to mention the entire world.

As far as I am concerned students learn a lot from these big projects, and I am not talking about filmmaking skills. Skills like patience, communication and cooperation, a movie set is like a family, we are all working towards the same goal and in the end, we all win -- not just the kids on screen, because even my actors soon realize all the hard work that everyone puts into the project.

These are things they just can’t learn by working on a project for only a few weeks, sometimes it takes months for these types of things to sink in. So don't be afraid to push working with school technology projects to bigger and longer projects.

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eLearning - Teaching Keyboarding to 2nd and 3rd Grade Students

#edtech #elearning Teaching keyboarding to 2nd and 3rd grade students using Dance Mat Typing, an online typing program. Part 3 of a series of teaching keyboarding, or typing, to elementary aged students. The School Technology Report.

Funding my elementary tech class - #edtech

The other day I got an email from a fellow tech teacher asking how I can afford things like Flip video cameras and podcasting microphone for my students to use. The truth is I do a lot of fund-raising.

Video camera in action.
Image via Wikipedia

Here is the breakdown from last year...

  • Building Buget for my Classroom $100.00
  • DVD sales of school performances ($10/dvd x 212) $2120.00
  • Donations from parents $650.00
  • Grants $2700.00
  • PTO contribution $1100.00
  • Total $6670.00

The truth is that it takes money to run a tech class and even with the $6670 there are still a lot of things I need to get. School technology is not cheap. So this year I will be teaching before school Podcasting and Movie Making clubs. This should add some more money to my budget...

User Fees for my before school clubs (16 students per quarter x $35 each)  $2240.00

I hope these ideas help, what do you do for school technology money?

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Creating a Facebook page for your School - #edtech #elearning

Our rationale for creating a Facebook page for our school is to "Go where our parents are."

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Since the majority of the parents of our students check their Facebook account daily, but only check our school webpage a few times a year, doesn't it make sense for our school to have a Facebook page? For example, if we were about to have an Ice Cream Social and we put a notice on our webpage, very few parents would see it. But if we put the same notice on our Facebook page, most of our parents would now know about it.

Mr. Flick's Guide for Creating a School Facebook Page:

  1. Go to (if you are automatically logged in, you will need to log out so you go to the actual front page of Facebook.)
  2. Click on the link "Create a page."
  3. Click "Local Business" and then select "Education" from the pull-down menu.
  4. Type in the name of your page, for example: Bethke Elementary School.
  5. Click the checkbox that says you're the official representative for your school and you can do this.
  6. Click the "Create Official Page."
  7. The next screen will ask you to log into your Facebook account.
  8. Fill out the appropriate information and upload some school photos (I wouldn't upload any photos of students, just shots of the school and teachers)
  9. You now have a Facebook Page for you school.

Now make a link on your school website for people to go to your school's Facebook page and ask your parents to "like" your school on Facebook.

Later, when you want to edit your school's Facebook page just log into your Facebook account click on Accounts in the top right of the webpage and click "Manage Pages"

Check out our school's website: and click on our Facebook link to see what ours looks like.

Related Articles:

Facebook for Educators - Atomic Learning

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Student: I Hope I Get a Great Teacher This Year - #edtech #teaching

Last week when our family was returning back from the annual pilgrimage to Walmart for back to school supplies I over heard my two teenage children talking in the back seat of the car. At first they were discussing all the new binders and pens they had just got but then my daughter said a really interesting thing.

Wal-Mart location in Moncton
Image via Wikipedia

"I hope I get a great teacher this year," she said.

"Yeah, me too," my son replied.

As a teacher, that hit me hard. Are my two children the only ones who think this way? Or are children all over our country hoping for the same thing? Do our students really start off each school year hoping to get a great teacher?

And now for even tougher questions...

Am I going to be a great teacher this year?

How to I become a great teacher?

Can I be a great teacher for all students?

I hope you noticed that my children didn't hope for the fun teacher or a goofy teacher or a let-you-get-away-with-anything teacher -- instead, they want a great teacher. You see, both my children were in the same math class last year, and they experienced what it is like to truly have a great teacher. This math teacher is so passionate about her subject that it become infectious to her students, both of my children love math now because of a great teacher. And now they want more.

As an elementary tech teacher, I want to be that great teacher. I want my students to be excited about school technology as I am, I want them to develop life-long 21st Century Skills that will help them in a future that I cannot even pretend to understand.

Let's do it! Let's all be great teachers!

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Teachers Must Do a Tech Inventory - #edtech #elearning #teaching

When it comes to teachers and integrating technology, it is all about what you have -- not what you don't have. But some teachers get hung up on the later. "But I don't have any Flip video cameras at my school, so my students can't make movies."

BERLIN - SEPTEMBER 04:  Visitors look at minia...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Teachers need to do a tech inventory to see what is available for them when they go to integrate technology into their lessons and projects.

There are three specific areas that teachers must do a technology inventory...

  1. The Classroom: Write down every piece of technology you have in your classroom. ie: teacher's computer, one student computer, tv, etc.
  2. The School: Now go and find all the technology in your school. ie: 1 laptop cart with 28 laptops, 5 digital cameras, computer lab with 32 computers, student response system (clickers), etc.
  3. The District: Some districts have technology just lying around for teachers to check-out. ie: video cameras, USB microscopes, etc.

Now that is a list you can work with! Now you can begin to integrate technology into your lessons and projects.

And for the teacher that said she doesn't have any Flip video cameras, it turned out that she could just use the 5 digital cameras in her school in "movie mode" to record video or check-out a video camera from the district. And she thought her students couldn't make movies.

Let's not fall into the trap of thinking; "I would teach my students 21st Century Skills and technology, but I just don't have the equipment." Look around you, you might be surprised at how much technology is in your classroom, school, and district.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with E-Learning - #edtech #elearning

Online Learning
Image by STML via Flickr

Yesterday I had an online meeting with the people at Atomic Learning to discuss some new ideas for blended learning. In the meeting were different educators from all over the world, we went back and forth about all the things we liked and disliked about online and offline learning, Atomic Learning was adamant about wanting the best possible learning experience for educators.

I have been chewing on these ideas all day, so here is my list:

What I hate about online learning (e-learning):

  1. Fluff and Filler: I remember an online class I took a few years ago that was painful to get through. It was filled with so much fluff and filler it was hard to get to the meat of the course. I had to read and participate in all sorts of weird off-topic subjects that I swear the instructor was on drugs, there was no connection between the different pieces.
  2. Unclear Instructions: Hey, I am a pretty tech-savey sort of guy, but I swear there are some courses that are so vague about the sequence of things that they should come with a number to the recommended 1-800 psychic hotline just so you can figure out what to do next. Once I thought I was cruising through an online lesson, or at least I thought I was, but then I noticed that none of my work was being graded. After I hunted down my instructor, it was finally explained to me that I had missed a step and that I would have to go back and complete it before I could be allowed to move on. I checked all the materials I had been given and there was never a mention of the step. Holy crud! A little quality-control would be nice.
  3. Boring or Sucky Lessons: With most people having a fast connection to the Internet, why do some online lesson providers still do dial-up type lessons? Come on! Let's see some videos, animations, simulations, live video chats, etc. Bandwidth is cheap -- use it.

What I love about online learning (e-learning):

  1. Blended Learning: Nobody likes to do everything online (except maybe 15 year-olds), so I love it when lessons included some offline work. Things like; reading a book, video taping a concept, interviewing a mentor, etc.
  2. Lesson Guides and Checklists: I love simple, easy to follow lesson guides that have a checklist. Most online learners have a full-time job, so we need make it easy for them to know where they are and where they need to go. I really love it when these checklists have how much time it might take to complete the task so learners can plan accordingly. For example: Task 14: Complete your rough draft of Twitter in Education paper (estimated time to complete: 1 hour).
  3. Fresh Content: I understand that textbooks are out of date by the time they get to students but online learning can be as fresh as the apple sitting on my desk. Online instructors should review their content on a frequent basis to make sure that their students are getting the most up-to-date ideas and concepts. It takes nothing to add and subtract a couple of links from an online lesson.

I'll keep you posted on the online learning projects that I am working on, I promise to follow my own love/hate relationship advise.

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Big Changes for Podcasting Studio - #edtech

Last year was a huge trial-run for the students at my school. We wanted to see if it was really possible for elementary students to podcast a daily school news show -- which they did. So now that my students have proven to be great podcasters, it is time to change some things in the studio.

Change #1: Change from a laptop to a desktop computer. The laptop kept getting "borrowed" for other school projects, so it is time to have a dedicated podcasting computer.

Change #2: New soundboard software. We decided to go with the Sitter Downers Soundboard, which is freeware and really easy to work. The students love to add sound effects and music to their live podcasts.

Change #3: Record directly to Audacity. Last year we recorded to a digital voice recorder, then took it into iTunes to convert the file to MP3 and then into Audacity for editing. Now we have streamlined the process.

Change #4: Two hosts are better than one. This year I want to use two hosts, we were already set up with the mics and mixer, so this is a natural progression that should make for a better show.

Stay tuned, we start our new podcasting season in a few weeks.

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Leadership Day 2010 - Exploit Their Passions - #edtech #leadershipday10

Today's post is part of the Leadership Day 2010 campaign, a day when bloggers post ideas about how school leaders can advance technology and 21st Century Skills for students and teachers. A How-To Guide To Exploiting Your Teacher's Tech Passions

I believe that one of the most effective ways to get your teachers to embed technology and 21st Century Skills into their lessons and the culture of a school is to find and exploit their technological passions.

Let me explain...

Imagine with me a beginning of the year meeting between a teacher and a principal (minus the chit-chat for brevity):

Principal: Thank you so much for meeting with me. Today I would like to talk about ideas for bringing more tech projects into our school.

Teacher: Okay, great, how can I help?

Principal: Is there anything about technology and teaching that you would like to see in our school?

Teacher: I don't understand?

Principal: Well, is there anything that you like to do with technology, or that you have heard about other schools doing that you would like to try here at our school.

Teacher: I don't know if this is what you are thinking... When I was in college I minored in acting and filmmaking, something I have not thought about for years, but a few months ago when I was watching a few YouTube videos I got a few ideas?

Principal: Ideas?

Teacher: Well, my first idea was about how bad most of the videos were -- from a production and acting point of view. I thought that if only these kids had a few tips about filmmaking and acting, they could do so much better. Tricks that I learned while I was in college. Then I started to think about how my students would love to make videos and put them online, especially for units like the one I teach on the California Gold Rush.

Principal: A video about the California Gold Rush?

Teacher: I imagined that the students could do the research, write a script, and them make a short movie acting out a few scenes from the unit. I think they would have a lot more fun and learn a lot more that filling out the current worksheet.

Principal: What would you need to be able to do this?

Teacher: I think just a cheap Flip video camera and some video editing software.

Principal: Let's give it a try, I think the students will love it. We still need to work out some details like parent permission forms and let's make sure to cover all the 21st Century Skills in the project so we can make it a model projects for other teachers to follow next year. I can use $200 of our tech budget to buy the things that you need and you can take it from there.

Teacher: Wow! That would be great, I'll get started on the lesson plan and rubric right away.


Voila! Happy teacher = happy principal = happy students.

This teacher will now spread his passion for this project to the other teachers in the school, within a few years there could be many great videos being made in this school.

Passion is contagious -- use it.

As they say in Singapore "Teach Less, Learn More." - #edtech

Yesterday while I was re-reading 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel I came across a section that I had highlighted the first time I had read the book but I had forgotten. The selection I highlighted was about how Singapore was very successful in updating and modernizing their educational system. They had chosen to focus on 21st Century Skills as the backbone to their overhaul.

The deputy director of Curriculum Policy and Pedagogy, Tay Lai Ling, is quoted as saying:

We have come a long way in changing our teaching and learning methods, but our teachers and students still have farther to go. We have a new slogan at the Ministry that will hopefully encourage further change. The new slogan is "Teach Less, Learn More."

After reading this quote I really started thinking about their slogan. What the crud does it mean to teach less and learn more?

What it means to me is that teachers need to slide over from being just the teacher and take on more of a role as coach and trainer. Which got me really thinking about the new curriculum I have designed for my school technology class for this upcoming year. I started to look at each lesson through the eyes of teaching less -- what I started to see was amazing. Soon I was scribbling notes on my lesson plans, ideas that would allow my students more freedom to direct their own learning. Less time with me lecturing and more time with me helping to "direct" their learning.

What can "Teach Less, Learn More" do for you?

Website Review - PBS TeacherSource

What I like most about PBS's new website for teachers is how nicely it is organized. Starting at the top menu-bar you can select the grade level for the lesson plans or activities that you are looking for. Once inside you can select from different sections like Arts and Literature, Health and Fitness, Math, Science, Social Studies, Pre-K and Library Media. You will notice that many of these sources are based on the award winning programing that is broadcast on PBS stations. You will also see that many are tied back to state standards and there are recommendations on how to study a topic beyond what is shown at the site. This website fits nicely into what I have been talking a lot about lately -- blended learning, mixing the online learning with the offline (classroom) learning helps our students by allowing them to excel in both worlds. To me this is the appropriate use of school technology -- to enhance what the teacher is already teaching.

The PBS Teacher Source makes finding online lessons and activities so much easier, check it out yourself.

The Struggle to Find Age Appropriate School Technology Projects

Over the past 12 years of teaching technology to K through 12 students I have learned that they can do amazing things with technology...

  • A second grade student that blogs.
  • A 9 year-old video game designer.
  • A high school freshman who writes and records his own songs.
  • A middle school student with her own webshow and over 5,000 followers.

This list could go on and on.

But the question that haunts me as I design new edtech projects is this, "Just because they can do it, should they do it?

I am sure that if enough time and effort was spent, we could have an eight year-old student do algebra. But why?

The same goes for teaching technology to our students -- do second graders really need to know how to blog or are we just showing off?

My concern is this; There is no doubt that the Internet is a two-sided sword -- being the greatest information source and also a dangerous place that  is not safe for our students. As technology leaders we must be vigilant in our weighing of the risk and reward values of any school technology project we develop.

Take for example the fifth-grade movie project in my school. In this projects the student write, act, direct, and film their own movie. In pre-production the student learn a lot about Internet safety and how by putting this video on YouTube their name and face will now be seen by anyone. We spend a lot of time on ideas like this so that the students understand how to safely put projects online. Guidelines that they use as they publish and post their own future home-made projects online.

Every year when we premiere the movie at the school the younger students want to immediately start working on their own movies, they don't understand that they have to get a little older before you can start making online movies. It is not that they are not capable, it is that they are not mature enough to deal with the online risks.

So the next time you start to develop a new tech lesson please keep in mind the balance of risk and reward with regards to the age of your students, try to make the projects with the lowest risk that offers the highest reward.

Here is the 5th grade movie from this past year...