Tech Badges Program Year 2 Successful Start

#edtech #atomiclearning  


Well the kids came back to school and the new and revised tech badges program is up and running smoothly. The kids are excited at the possibilities of earning the tech badges that interest them, after they have earned the required ones, of course.

A few changes for this year:

- I now only hand out badges once a month. So on the last week of each month they get the badges they have earned that past month. Handing them out as they earned them was too disruptive to the class.

- Also on the last week of the month I allow students to work on projects that are one level up from where they currently are. This is to help some of my students that are stuck in a rut -- usually with keyboarding. This once a month chance to work on other projects gives them the motivation they need to kick it into gear and get to the next level.

- I have moved all of my lessons onto the Atomic Learning servers. The students now log-in and get right to work with everything in one place. I would say about 75% of my content is from AL, with the other 25% my own video that I have uploaded to their "custom training" side of things. The nice thing about Atomic Learning is that it is reliable and safe. Sending kids to YouTube for video tutorials can be risky at best. I have had videos that start off nice (on Excel formulas) but the person then drops the F-Bomb about half way through it when a formula doesn't work how he wanted it to. With AL videos I never need to worry about it.

So far so good with this year's launch. Next week they will work on their own badges, so keep your fingers crossed and we'll see how that turns out.

More updates to come...

Brad Flickinger Tech Teacher Bethke Elementary School, Colorado

The Dark Side of BYOD

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At first, you might wonder what any of this has to do with technology in schools, but bear with me, it should all make sense by the end.

This past week I was caught by something that Joshua Garcia, deputy superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools said during his acceptance speech at the annual ASCD Conference that was held this past week in Chicago. Mr. Garcia spoke about trying to eradicate racism and elitism in his schools. He mentioned those two words, racism and elitism, together about five times during his emotional acceptance speech for winning the Outstanding Young Educator Award. I think we are all pretty clear on what racism is, but what about elitism and why is it so bad that he paired it with such word like racism?

Elitism is when people of the same social or ethic group, think that they are somehow better, or are more deserving than other people within their same group. They believe they are "The Elite" of their group. Entitlement can be a big part of elitism. Those who feel elite also feel somewhat entitled to getting more than the rest.

So what does elitism have to do with schools and technology?

As much as I love the idea of BYOD, students bringing and using their own technology at school, it does make me nervous in this regard.

Those who know me, know that I teach in a fairly affluent school. All of my kids go home to computers, videos games, and most importantly, Internet access. A lot of the students I teach have their own technology, usually in the form of a mobile device.

But before I go on, I know that some of you are reading my words and are now fighting your own demons. You might be one of the many educators who, because I teach at a school with 0% Free & Reduced, think that I cannot possible have "real" problems at my school. Like somehow a low F & R percentage makes all school and education problems go away, when we know in our guts that it does not (it does make some problems go away - no doubt about it). Some narrow-minded educators have even come up with the cute little term for the problems my students face by mockingly calling them "First-World Problems." Which means they think that my kids are crushed by huge problems that they think go something like this... "I just don't know which new snowboard to get for my trip to Aspen this weekend? My life sucks!" When the truth is that my students do face real problems every day, that in many ways mirror their counterparts in schools with high F & R rates.

I think we all can agree that after the basics of food, safety, shelter and clothing are taken care of, most of the other problems are to the students and the world they live in, as real as it gets. Our worlds might look different, but to young children problems are problems.

My students want to come to school and feel accepted by their peers. But my students used to fight elitism every day, being put down because do don't have the latests and greatest was a real problem. Now don't get me wrong, I work with great kids, but I have had some of these same great kids in my classroom in tears over things that their classmates have said to them about the technology they own.

BYOD could really magnify this problem is our schools. I used to think how great it would be to just have students bring their own technology to school instead of it being provided for them. But as we have dipped our toe into the BYOD pool at our school we have seen this elitism muddy the water. Students mocking other students for not owning the newest and best in mobile technology. And just as ugly as a problem are these same students walking the halls feeling that somehow they are entitled to have the best technology in their pockets when so many other go without.

But is it really the same? To mock someone for what they own or don't own, should carry the same weight as someone being mocked for the color of their skin? Let's stop and just take a quick look and see how the two compare.

Racism: someone who feels superior, makes someone else feel inferior for something that is outside of their control. For example, to tell someone he is not able to enter a restaurant because the the color of his skin (something they have no control of) by a person of a different color is racist.

Elitism: someone who feels superior, makes someone else feel inferior for something that is outside of their control. For example, when a person is told that because they own a piece of mobile technology that so old that only losers own that model (something they have no control of) by another person with newer technology is elitism.

Now of course, elitism is not as serious as racism, but it is strange how similar they are. And I am here to tell you that words spoken with elitism sting to child similar to words of racism.

So before we jump into the deep end of the BYOD pool, I think we need to take a good hard look at elitism in our schools and ask ourselves if this is something we can take on and conquer? So talk to your students and see if this is happening in your school. Talk to your fellow educators and see if something can be done about if it is.

In my school we are working as a team, united in keeping this out of our school. We are relentless, and we work with our students to help eliminate elitism from our school. And I am happy to say that the progress this past year has been amazing. Like racism, once identified, elitism could be taken head-on. Many students didn't even know they were contributing to the problem. They were just having a little fun. They didn't know that they were hurting their fellow students with their sharp words.

BYOD might be a great thing to save our schools, but let's be careful so as to not create a bigger problem than the one we just fixed.

Mandatory Assessment - Student Motivation Video: TCAP Baby! - Funny

#edtech #edchat The other day I got together with my fellow elementary teachers to film a funny video to help motivate our students to take the TCAP assessment test. The video took off and went viral which caused our school's website server to crash so I had to move it to YouTube today. Here it is...

Why my school uses Atomic Learning - reason 46

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They're always fresh, never stale.

With education reform being such a hot-button topic in our country, us edtech people are being constantly sucked into the mix of reform ideas. Which is why I need to up-to-date on all the latest tech trends and ideas.

I don't know where they have their crystal ball tucked away in their Little Falls offices, but they seem to be ahead of the curve with these new emerging edtech ideas. The other day I needed a case study on a district using PD to implement and differentiate tech instruction, sure enough they had one.

You can see for the attached photo of the front page dashboard that they cover everything from tech and the Common Core Standards to mobile learning.

Now all I need is a few minutes with their crystal ball to see about tech recommendation that is due on my principal's desk this Friday.

- Brad Flickinger, tech teacher, Bethke Elementary

An Edtech Teacher's Take on CES 2013

#edtech Why does an edtech teacher visit the largest consumer electronics show on earth?

Each winter I look forward to attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas as part of my job as an elementary technology teacher and edtech consultant. More for the latter I suppose.

At CES each year I get a chance to glance into the crystal ball of technology. You see, often times when I am working with school districts on their technology plans I will get asked about my opinions of where technology is headed. A fair question when you're a district about to spend millions of dollars on technology. CES allows me to see how things are trending in technology. For example a few years ago 3D was all the rage, but at CES I got to play with 3D technology and I couldn't see it working in homes, let alone schools. So I steered districts away from it, and sure enough, 3D for homes and schools at least, is D.O.A.

Other technologies that I have discovered at CES like tablet computers as teleprompters, I used at my own school. There is something about being able to play with technology that helps me decide if it will work in schools or not. Seeing, and touching, really is believing when it comes to technology.

School technology is a moving target so it is important to get as much intelligence as you can, so you can get the biggest bang for your edtech buck. I think we've all been burned, whether at home or at school, when we've purchased a new piece of technology one day only to have is become obsolete the next. I work hard to prevent this as much as possible and attending CES helps.

But CES is massive, the show covers the equivalent of 32 football fields, so there is no way I can see it all in the few days that I am there. So I make a plan of which technologies I need to check out. This year I am focused on mobile technologies.

So here I go, off to Las Vegas with 160,000 other geeks to check out the coolest gadgets on earth, all in hopes of seeing where the edtech ball will be instead of where it is right now.


Episode 81 - CES 2013 Report 1

#edtech On the road to CES 2013, an educator's perspective on the largest electronics show in the world.

Starting Your Own iPad iBand - Part 2

#ipaded #mlearning #edtech

August 27, 2012 - iBand Journal Entry No. 2

The lanyards arrived this week for the students, they loved them. Now they look like band members, but will they be able to sing?


I strongly believe that to get edtech success from our students you need to provide them with authentic experiences, these badges and lanyards help to make their little band more "real."

- Brad Flickinger, tech teacher, Bethke Elementary School


Starting Your Own iPad iBand - Part 1

#edtech #ipaded #mlearning


August 20, 2012 - iBand Journal Entry No. 1

I met with three fifth grade students this week to see if they could even play a few chords on the iPad. So I downloaded some lyrics that showed the chords for Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day, I know nothing about music so I hoped this going in the right direction.

I started up my iPad and launched GarageBand and selected the smart guitar, I set it to the correct key (F minor) and showed the kids how to strum the guitar on the iPad.

I was surprised at how fast they picked it up, especially John, he had no music experience but played the chords well. After 15 minutes it actually started to sound like the real song. There might be something to this after all so I went to and ordered some lanyards for our Band, you can't have a band without some '"All Access" lanyards.

Brad Flickinger, tech teacher, Bethke Elementary.

Video: Student filmmaking with iPads

#edtech #ipaded #mlearning Here is some behind the scenes footage of my students using iPads to film an anti-bullying movie that the wrote. You will see them refer to their blue sheets which are their storyboard sketches of the movie.

iPad Filmmaking from Brad Flickinger on Vimeo.

Video: Student Web Show Made with iPads.

#ipaded #mlearning #edtech Here is a video of my students shooting their weekly web show. It starts off with a minute of the actual show, then you will see behind the scenes and how they shoot it with iPads, and use an iPad teleprompter...

KBOB Web Show from Brad Flickinger on Vimeo.

TIES 2012 Conference Keynote Notes Tuesday

#edtech #ties12


Here are my notes from this morning's keynote by Tony Wagner, an author and expert on innovation.

Teachers using tech for test prep, there is so much more.

Knowledge is free, so what do we do now?

So what is a teacher for?

The stunning pace of the changing workforce.

The no longer cares how much our kids know, it's what they can do with what they know.

What is the teacher's role?

These are survival skills for today...

- Critical thinking and problem solving. Asking the right questions.

- Collaboration across networks. Peers leading through influence.

- Risk Takers.

- Effective writers and communicators.

- Accessing and analyzing information.

- Curiosity and imagination.

The global achievement gap. What is happening in our schools and what the world needs.

Now we see kids with BA degrees that are unable to get jobs.

What's wrong with this picture?

Innovation is what is needed.

"A creative problem solver."

Curious, creative, imaginative.

These are what's important, but are we "schooling" these skills out of our students.

The teachers who make the greatest difference in successful kids, were outliers of education.

What's wrong: Culture of schooling: - schools celebrate individual success - compartmentalism of information - deeply passive approach to learning - reward compliance - relies on rewards for motivation

There is no innovation without trial and error. "F" is the new "A."

Play, passion and purpose are what is needed.

Sometimes kids need to be bored, to learn how to become un-bored.

We have to create and new way of accountability. Assess the skills that matter most.

Digital portfolio from kindergarten on.

Capstone projects. for portfolios.

Motivation: Google rule 20% rule applied to every classroom in America.

The role of the teacher is to be a coach for excellence.

Every teacher needs to be an effective coach. Bring play, passion, and purpose to your teaching.

Educator Who Quits Over iPad Initiative Has a Change of Heart after Online Training

#edtech #mlearning #ipaded

I came across this post while cruising the usual edtech blogs...

Vacaville Christian Schools in Vacaville, CA recently embarked on a district-wide iPad initiative. While most of the educators grasped the transition to the tablets in their instruction, one teacher in particular struggled.“She was one of the best math teachers on the planet,” Middle School Principal Maylene Ripley said, “But she said she couldn’t do it and she resigned. ”Although the Middle School would miss the talented math teacher, Ripley didn’t want to force the transition on her.

Over the few months after her resignation, her colleagues kept in touch with her and encouraged her that the training and support they were getting through the school’s Atomic Learning subscription would help her through. She decided to return to the school and used the school’s online training solution to become proficient enough in using the tablet that she now teaches other educators how to use their mobile device effectively in their classrooms.

Being a great support system to the teachers as they transitioned was one of Ripley’s claims to a successful mobile implementation. “They needed to know we were there for them when they struggled,” Ripley said.Ripley also credits their mobile device implementation success to their online training partner, Atomic Learning. “One of the best things we did was partner with Atomic Learning,” Ripley stated. “With the on-demand, anytime, anywhere training, our staff could train when they wanted to, on what they needed."

Ripley is thrilled with how the story of her staff ends. “She (teacher who resigned) could barely turn the iPad on and now she’s training others with it,” Ripley said.To learn more about how Atomic Learning’s Atomic Mobilize solution can help your school or district plan an effective mobile implementation, download a free mobile planning worksheet at


Edtech Myth: Students Breaking Tech

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Many educators are reluctant to put technology into the hands of young children because they believe that they will just break it. They don't think that 9 year-olds are responsible enough to have handheld technology like cameras, tablets, and smart phones. While it is true that some technology will be broken by your students, it is not what you think.

Let me explain...

When I teach digital photography, which by the way starts in second grade, I start with training all about the camera itself. I show them what every little thing does, you must solve their curiosity or they could damage it accidentally by just trying to figure out what something does. I let them press every button, take out the batteries and SD card, plug in the USB cable -- everything. Now that they know that how everything works and what everything does, you won't catch them trying to pry open the battery compartment with a pencil because you've taught them to “press down, then slide to open.” For example, they all now know that the USB cable has one way it plugs in and if it doesn't go in, you just turn it over and try the other way, this keeps them from trying to force it in the wrong way. I repeat this lesson a lot so that I know that they know what everything does on the camera.

While I am teaching them about all the parts of the camera and how it works, they are also learning how to handle it, they are taught to use the wrist strap, and to only open the battery compartment with the camera on their desk, etc. By the time they are finished with this part, they are now ready to take some photos. Also by this time their excitement of using a camera has worn off a bit and they are much more calm about taking photos than if I was to just hand them cameras and set them loose on the world. They would be dropping cameras left and right because they get so excited about just taking a picture that they forget about how to handle the technology responsibly. By the time I finally let them take pictures they self-correct, or they are peer corrected, “Mr. Flick, Timmy isn't using the wrist strap!” One student will tattle on another.

The truth is that they do drop cameras, I have to replace about two or three a year of the 15 cameras I have for student use. But with each case, the broken camera has happened on my watch, and it was truly just an accident. In every case the child is heart-broken when bringing me the camera -- lesson learned.

While it is true that there is the risk of students damaging technology, the return on investment is far greater. We can't teach them 21st Century Skills without breaking a few pieces of hardware, and with the right precautions the risk can be mitigated. By my students learning proper photography skills starting in second grade, they become greater videographers in fifth grade. I addition, by trusting them with a $90 camera when they are 7 years-old, I can trust them with a $800 laptop when they are 10.

We can't throw our students into the ocean of technology without first teaching them to swim, start with floaties on their arms and then move them slowly towards swimming independence. You can do it, and when the first piece of technology breaks, chalk it up as the cost of doing business -- the business of kids and tech -- a worthwhile investment for all of us.

Atomic Learning iPad App Review

20121002-202625.jpg #edtech #ipaded #atomiclearning

After coming down from the high of upgrading from my old iPhone 4 to the new iPhone 5, I had to get back down to the business of tech teaching.

Since I have given up on the idea of lugging around my MacBook Pro in lieu of just my iPhone and iPad I was happy to see that the Atomic Learning app is now available in the App Store.

Next week I need to teach my fourth graders the art of video game design using Scratch. So that was the first thing I searched for and look at all of the great tutorials I found...


The videos played beautifully on my 3rd gen iPad, and the best part of all is having the "second screen" which means, while the tutorial played on my iPad I followed along on my school's desktop Windows XP machine. No more having to click between two computer windows.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bathke Elementary

The Modern School's Library


#edtech #elearning

The local newspaper just wrote an article about the changes I made to my elementary school's library. This is not the school library you grew up with...

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary