Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another Successful Year of Operation Read

Operation Read is a district-wide trivia-bowl type competition for 4th-6th grade students.  All of the questions come from the current year's ten Golden Sower nominees (the Golden Sower is Nebraska's Children's Choice Book Award).  Students work together with their team of 3-5 to tell the titles of the books that correspond with the questions that are always phrased, "In which book..."  One of the questions from this year's competition was "In which book is there a life-sized statue of a character?"  This statue was only briefly mentioned in the book Escape from Lemoncello's Library.  

The students spend countless hours reading in preparation for this competition.  They have to read at least four of the ten books, but many read more than that and even read them more than once.  This truly is a remarkable event to be able to offer our students.  That they would get excited about reading is something we should all celebrate!  We had 215 students on 48 teams with each elementary school represented at our competition and hope to see the enthusiasm for this event continue to grow!

Congratulations to the team from Belleaire that took home the trophy this year! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Using Seesaw to Create, Curate, Collaborate and Connect in the K-12 Classroom

As access to technology continues to grow in K-12 classrooms, teachers look for different ways to check for understanding, curate student work, collaborate and share. Teachers look for ways to “get into” the minds of the student to understand their learning process. They look for ways to bridge the gap between home and school in a 1:1 classroom. How will they curate work efficiently in a digital classroom? How about collaborating and building a sense of community in a technology driven classroom? Seesaw: The Learning Journal has provided answers to many of these questions. With its ease of use and limitless possibilities, Seesaw allows students to easily create and curate content while collaborating and connecting with classmates and parents.

In this blog post, I shared the basics of implementing and using portfolios with your students. One of our favorite apps/websites to use is Seesaw. We have seen the use of Seesaw grow in Bellevue Public Schools and it is now being used in many of our K-12 classrooms. So, what makes Seesaw so powerful? Here are 4 ways to use Seesaw in the K-12 classroom.

Creating (Multiple Apps, Images, Paper Samples, Reflection)
The possibilities that Seesaw allows for creation are limitless. Seesaw gives students the ability to create and upload their work from over 100 apps. What if you have a colorful graph that students created on paper? No problem, take a picture and upload it to Seesaw. Even better, if you want the students to explain their graph, have them upload the graph to Seesaw and record their voice explaining their findings. Bring in images such as maps and math problems for students to mark up and complete their work. Have students record themselves reading a story they have written while a picture that they drew is showing on the screen. Students need to learn how to balance a budget? Upload a picture of a worksheet or an image from the web and have them complete the budget, share with classmates and ask for help it needed. Another game changing use of Seesaw is having students use the whiteboard feature to reflect on their learning. After completing a math lesson, students can open the whiteboard and work a problem while explaining how to do it. Reflection is such an important component in the learning process and Seesaw makes it easy. The possibilities for creation are endless.

Curating (Work sample comparison, student led P/T conferences)
Curating student work is one of the well known benefits of using portfolios. Seesaw makes it easy for students to upload their work throughout the year using the examples above. Students are able to see their writing and other work improve throughout the year. How powerful it is to look at writing from August and compare it to writing done in May. The curation of content also allows for the use of Seesaw at parent/teacher conferences. Students can upload work to a folder title parent/teacher conferences or teacher’s can flag student work to share. During conferences let the student lead the conference and show parents their folder or flagged work.

Collaborating (Peer to Peer, Blogs)
Another powerful piece of Seesaw is the ability to use it as a student collaboration tool. Students can upload work to their portfolio and ask for peer editing help. Through the use of text/voice comments and likes, classmates can offer advice to their classmates. In one of our high school classes, the teacher uses Seesaw to share student created projects such as iMovies. Students listen individually to the movies and give two stars and a wish (two things they like about the project and one wish for making it better). Students then gather together in their groups and read through or listen to the comments and decide what they will change about their project. By doing this, the students know that their audience is bigger and the work turned in is of higher quality. They are also learning the skills of collaboration, social media etiquette, and the proper way to give and receive constructive criticism.

Connecting (Parents, Blogs)
Bridging that gap between work and home in a 1:1 classroom can sometimes be difficult but with an app like Seesaw it is much easier. Seesaw gives you the power to invite parents to view student portfolios. Parents can sign up to receive updates by text message or e-mail. By downloading the app on a phone, a parent can turn on notifications and be alerted when their student uploads something to their portfolio. Even better is the ability for parents to like and comment on their student’s work. Seeing students grin when they get a voice comment from a parent is priceless.

Seesaw has recently added the ability to create a class blog within the app. Students no longer have to navigate to another app or website to add work to their blog. The teacher can control the privacy of the blog and students can add anything they add to their Seesaw account to the blog. And better yet, classes can connect with other classes around the country or world. This allows the students to see and comment on other student's work.

The options that Seesaw provides for teachers and students allows for the easy creation and curation of student work while weaving in collaboration. The ease of inviting parents into the classroom through the use of Seesaw parent logins bridges the disconnect sometimes felt between the classroom and home. And with its ease of use, students from kindergarten through twelfth grade can benefit in a variety of ways from building a digital portfolio with Seesaw. 

Take a look at the video below which contains testimonials from Bellevue Public School teachers on how they use Seesaw in the classroom. How are you using Seesaw in the classroom?

Written by: Jeanette Carlson (@mrsjcarlson)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Eight Ways to Improve Student Created Videos

One of the most meaningful ways to get students creating and collaborating is to have them shooting and editing videos to show their learning. However, for a lot of teachers, student created videos can become frustrating because of what often times turns out to be a low quality video. Below are eight tips that teachers can use to support students during the video creation process that will yield much better videos, and as a result, more effectively show student mastery of a learning goal.   

1. Focus on the Purpose
Far too often, students become so consumed with shooting the video that they lose focus of their purpose. Before setting students free make sure they think about the purpose of the video they are creating. Questions like, what is the purpose of shooting this video? Who is the intended audience? Where will people access the video? Getting students to think about these questions not only in the early stages of creation but throughout the process will yield a much better video in the end.  

2. Content Before Creation
While students are busy shooting their film it can be very easy to lose sight of the most important part of the whole video, the content! Remind students throughout the process to keep their focus on the content and how it is being shown throughout the video creation process. 

3. Tell a Story
Have students approach video creation in the form of telling a story.  By telling a story the video will have a beginning, middle, and end. This will get students thinking more deeply about the video, their message, and the overall layout of their video, which leads to tip number four.

4. Storyboard Before You Shoot Video
One of the biggest mistakes students often make is shooting the video way too soon. Provide students with time to plan their video and more importantly individual shots by storyboarding. Storyboarding will help students think more critically of the shots they are going to shoot and how their story is being told. Storyboards should include basic drawings of the scene, description, the type of shot, angle of the shot, and notes about the audio. One of the best storyboards I have seen was shared with me by Don Goble (@dgoble2001).  

5. Write a Script
Another important part of the planning process is having students write out a script.  Like storyboarding, this will get students thinking more about not only what they are going to say, but how they are going to say it. This also provides a powerful way for students to do meaningful writing..  Although the end goal is to create a video, students will see the value in writing as they figure out the best way to share their content.

6. Teach the Basic Shots
Although most teachers have not gone to film school and have little to no experience shooting video, they can still teach some of the basic shots and angles, which can take videos to another level. The first strategy to teach students is the rule of thirds. This is a simple strategy used in taking photographs and filmmaking that is all about how to position the shot. Check out this short video for more information. In addition to the rule of thirds, students need to be introduced to the basic shots and angles of filmmaking. The key is for students to transition between these shots as they tell their story.  Here are a couple of great resources that will help teach your students about the different shots and angles they should be using when making their videos.

7. Don’t Forget About the Audio
By far one of the most important parts to any video is the audio. Whether it is noise in the background while filming or the music/sound effects placed in the film later, students need to be aware of the audio that will be happening during each scene. A great shot will be lost if the audio component isn’t there to compliment it. 

8. Invest Time into Editing
No matter how much time you have put into planning and shooting the film, none of it will matter if students don’t invest time into the process of editing. This is the point where all the other steps during the process will come together. It is in the editing where the video will truly come to life.  
Video creation is a powerful strategy to get students actively engaged with the content they are learning.  However, far too often students are not given the support and guidance when it comes to the process. By introducing even a couple of these strategies students will be able to more effectively show their learning.

If you have any tips or resources to add please leave a comment.
Written by Jeffrey Bernadt (@jeffreybernadt)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bellevue PD Day Bursts Beyond the Classroom Walls

While students enjoyed one more day of vacation, Bellevue Public Schools teachers were hard at work collaborating and learning in classrooms at Bellevue West on February 15, 2015. The classrooms were buzzing with teachers actively engaged in professional development activities. Teachers were able to choose from a variety of session topics including instructional technology, math, co-teaching, art, NeSA-ELA, HAL and others.

Sessions were led by a number of our own Bellevue Public Schools educators as well as members of the ESU 3 professional development team. Some of the experts from outside the district included Dr. Villa on co-teaching, David Dechant from EHA and Julia Hebenstreit and Jill Hamilton with suicide prevention and mental health.

Schoology, a learning management system, was the tool of choice to smoothly share resources with teachers throughout the day. Presenters uploaded their materials to the February 15 PD Schoology course for easy access by the 698 teachers enrolled in the course. If teachers weren’t able to attend a session, it is not a problem.  They can find the information in Schoology anytime, anywhere. Schoology organizes and streamlines content which makes it a consistent way to share materials and resources efficiently and effectively.

Shortly after kicking off the inservice, Nicole Fox, Director of Curriculum and Classroom Assessment said, ”The day is off to a great start with our dedicated BPS educators! We have some phenomenal presenters, and the best part of learning is sharing what we know with our colleagues.”

Led by our District Instructional Technology Specialists, Building Technology Coordinators and iPad Academy teachers, the #bpsne hashtag was brimming with tweets about the learning that took place during the day. By utilizing Twitter, Bellevue Public Schools was able to share the incredible day with each other, along with educators and community members near and far. The tweets from the day were captured in this archive and available for anyone to access anytime.

Written by Jeanette Carlson @mrsjcarlson and Ann Feldmann @annfeldmann1  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why Type When You Can Talk?

Did you know that it is possible to voice type more than 2 1/2 times faster than you can type with your fingers?   According to the article, Can Dragon Speech Recognition Beat World Touch Typing Record, if you type around 20 wpm, a 1,000 word report will take you around 50 minutes. If you can speak it at 100 wpm, it’ll take around 10 minutes.  By utilizing voice recognition software, you become more efficient, increase your accuracy, and capture more ideas.


Gain valuable minutes back in your day you  voice typing. Instead of spending all of your time painstakingly typing a document, voice type and give yourself the gift of time.


Well finger typing, it's very likely to make a mistake it’s easy to hit the wrong key. Use voice typing and become more accurate. Accuracy will decrease the amount of time needed to edit the document.


When voice typing, the ideas continue to flow just as if you were having a conversation. The voice recognition software makes it easier to focus on the content instead of getting caught up in the keyboard.

Google recently added voice typing as a standard feature in Google Docs.  It’s free and easy to use voice typing on any device: laptops,tablets, and phones.   Check out this short video and learn how simple it is to get started.

In the spirit of voice typing, I used Google's voice typing on this entire post. I challenge you to start using Google Voice.

Written by Ann Feldmann

Works Cited
"Can Dragon Speech Recognition Beat the World Touch Typing Record? |" ITProPortal. 10 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who Moved the Front of the Room?

I walked into a 1:1 elementary iPad classroom and knew it had happened. There was a happy hum in the room, kids were working independently in soft spaces, and the vibe in the room was productive and calm. Where was the front of the room? Where was the teacher?  

What I am describing is a disruptive blended classroom as defined by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker in the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. “There is a simple rule of thumb for spotting a disruptive model of blending learning: if students are learning in a blended setting, and you can’t figure out where the front of the classroom is then it’s probably a disruptive model (Horn, Staker (p.76).”    I have witnessed this shift happen several times as we have implemented 1:1 iPad classrooms in my district.     Teaching and learning looks very different from the traditional model we envision when we think of a classroom and school. Instead of finding a teacher delivering content in one unifying message from the front of the room, teachers are crafting a personalized learning environment grounded in pedagogy, choice, and creation which shifts the teacher from the front of the room to working alongside students and a shift from desks to soft spaces throughout the room.  

How does a shift like this happen?

Developing a blended learning culture within the classroom day is the key. Blended learning is defined as, “A formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience (Christensen Institute)."  As an iPad coach, I work in classrooms alongside students and teachers.  From Day 1, we begin to craft this blended environment.  

Here are a few steps to get started.

  1. Set up a blended classroom workflow using tools such as iTunes, Google Classroom or a learning management system such as Schoology or Canvas so students can have control over time, place, path, and/or pace. This is the place to design the content and deliver course materials.  Once this workflow is in place, it is easy for students to access and submit assignments anytime, anywhere.  Not only is this great workflow, but it also provides feedback and privately differentiates for every child seamlessly.
  2. Leverage the audio and video capabilities to provide students choice and independence in how they learn and how they demonstrate mastery of objectives.  Both teaching and learning is now multi-modal where students have more options for creation that includes audio and video.
  3. Create soft spaces in the classroom and give students the freedom of movement and collaboration so they can work individually and with one another naturally throughout the day.
  4. Let go and let them learn. As you shift to working alongside your students, take advantage of the time to conference individually and provide guidance to small groups.  
  5. Be patient with yourself and your students. It takes time and perseverance to craft this environment.

How are you creating a blended learning classroom for your students?

Leave us a comment below.

Written by Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)

Works Cited
1. "Christensen Institute." Christensen Institute Blended Learning Comments. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
2. Horn, Michael B., and Heather Staker. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. Print.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Learning Never Stops with iPad Anchor Activities

What do they do when they’re done? This is a question that so many teachers have as they begin to let go of their classroom and students begin to take ownership of their learning. As students move at their own pace through guided instruction or learning activities they will inevitably finish at different times. One of the biggest fears of teachers is that students will have nothing meaningful to do during the transition time. This has always been a challenging moment unless they have an engaging task for students to work on while they wait for their fellow students. So, how do teachers continue the learning process for their students during these times?

The iPad offers multiple answers to this challenging moment for teachers. One of the biggest advantages of having iPads in the hands of our students is that anchor activities are right at the their fingertips. There are so many quality apps for different ages that allow students the opportunity to practice basic skills, review material, or even extend their learning acquire new skills. One advantage is that this can happen at the student’s own pace and level. Another advantage is that there is no prep time for teachers. Anchor apps can be used at any level, however, the use in elementary classrooms is particularly powerful throughout an entire day of transitioning between activities. 

So what are some great apps that our elementary teachers are using to keep the learning process going during these times? Check out the list below and please comment on any apps that you feel our students should be using as well!

Math: Front Row Math, Teach Me Kindergarten/1st/2nd/3rd
Writing: Teach Me Kindergarten/1st/2nd/3rd, Handwriting Without Tears 
Reading: Front Row Reading, Epic, Raz-Kids 
Vocabulary Work: Keynote, Quizlet
Coding: Kodable, Lightbot, Hopscotch, Scratch Jr.

Written By Jeffrey Bernadt  |  @jeffreybernadt