Tip 14 – Go Formative!

I’m not sure how much you can relate, but I can most definitely remember the anguish I would have when I walked into class and learned of tpop-quiz.pnghe “pop quiz” that I was about to undergo.  I never ever walked away from a “pop-quiz” and felt that I learned anything from that situation except that I did not enjoy being unprepared.

Formative assessments are not about gotcha-ing students.  They are about guiding where instruction needs to go next for each student.  We should use them frequently, while or after kids learn a new idea, concept, or process.  When you are on your way to the Big End Project (or summative assessment) and students have just learned a piece or a step toward the end, check to see if they’ve got it.

There is certainly not a shortage of online tools for distributing quizzes to students and watching their responses in real-time.  If you would like to avoid using the tired old quiz, check out today’s Tech-Tip for a few new ways to check for understanding. (1)


Formative is a free, web-based student response and assessment tool for the classroom.  After a tutorial, teachers can upload or create assignments that let students type, enter numbers, draw (with a mouse or their finger, depending on the device), upload an image, or answer multiple-choice questions.  Teachers can create classes (manually or by filling out a template spreadsheet) and then distribute their assignments to students through formative-assessmentsclasses (including Google Classroom) or via an access code.  Students can use accounts (which allows teachers to track their progress over time) or choose to respond without logging in.  Teachers can watch their students’ responses arrive in real time via the teacher dashboard, and teachers can send back grades (manually our automatically) and also send longer narrative responses in reply. (2)

After teachers create an account, they receive an automatically generated email from the company’s co-founder and CEO (who is a former teacher) with links to a step-by-step walkthrough and a page of YouTube tutorials. A blog linked from the developer’s website offers further assistance. (2)

The best feature of Formative is the option to create “show your work” type questions.  “Show your work” questions enables students to draw responses and or upload pictures as responses to your questions.  When you use this question type students will see a blank canvas directly below the question where they can draw and or type responses. (3)


The best part is…IT’S FREE!  Check out this short video for a bit more information.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


  1. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/formative-assessments-importance-of-rebecca-alber
  2. https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/formative
  3. http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2015/08/formative-possible-replacement-for.html#.WIYCv7YrKF0

Tip 13 – Alright, STOP. Collaborate and Listen!


giphy-3Alright, now that I’ve used Mr. Vanilla Ice to gain your attention, I would like to move right along to the topic of collaboration.

I was always looking for new and different ways to get my students to work together and use one another as resources in the classroom.  I do believe that encouraging students to reach out to each other to solve problems and share knowledge not only builds collaboration skills but leads to deeper learning and understanding. (1)  Today’s Tech-Tip provides you another tool to put in your belt that might help to get students working together. collaborate


CoSketch is a multi-user online whiteboard designed to give you the ability to quickly visualize and share your ideas.  Anything you paint, draw, or type will show up to all other users in the room in real time.  It’s basically like google docs with whiteboard tools.  It only takes one click to save a sketch as an imacosketch example.pngge for embedding on forums, blogs, etc.  The app runs in all common browsers without the need for any plugins, downloads, or installation. The best part is, it’s FREE! (2)

It’s easy to collaborate.  You simply invite others to collaborate by sharing the URL of the whiteboard.  You can change your nickname so that others can recognize you.  Tools are easy to use and require very little play to be comfortable.

The site includes a chat function. Be sure to caution students about appropriate use. Continuous monitoring by teachers is essential!

How can I use CoSketch?

I’m sure you have already thought of a few ways you could implement this in your class.  Some possible ways to use this could be…

  • Use pictures from a science lab or experiment to write information on the picture.
  • Have student groups collaborate to create a diagram of the steps in a process shown in a photograph.
  • Have students add annotations to art images or ad layouts, showing design elements and the path of your eye as you view the image.
  • Show math concepts using geometric shapes.
  • Create images as a group or use for tutorials.
  • Create artwork or use for brainstorming.
  • Have students create their own whiteboard as part of a research project.
  • Project the image on your interactive whiteboard or projector as you begin a unit or lesson or to recap the steps in a process with the entire class.
  • Collaborate with others outside the classroom as you create a community map or action plan together.
  • Encourage students to use this site to review or plan together. (3)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


  1. https://www.edutopia.org/stw-collaborative-learning
  2. https://hubalternative.com/top-10-cosketch-alternatives
  3. http://www.teachersfirst.com/single.cfm?id=12047

Tip 12 – Get Yourself Organized on the Web

If you ask me, there aren’t many things more important to teachers than time.  Time is the one commodity that we always seem to need more of but it seems impossible to find.

Time to plan.download-1

Time to grade.

Time to teach.

Time to spend with family and friends.

Time for yourself.

One way that I’ve found to save time is to become more organized, not only in my physical workspace but also in my digital workspace.  I am still that guy who as hundreds of websites that I’ve heard about from colleagues bookmarked so that I can go back and check them out when I have “time.”  Even when I get a chance download-2to visit those sites, the problem becomes how can I organize all these sites that I do visit?

Maybe you are experiencing a case of website amnesia  You can’t remember the address or if it is a .com, .org, or a .net site.  Maybe you’re perusing that LONG list of bookmarks you saved on your laptop to find that one site you know is within that list somewhere.  Never fear…Symbaloo is here!


Symbaloo is a customizable start page tool that lets users add all their most important websites in a format that is easy to use.  Your homepage, or “webmix” as Symbaloo refers to it, appears as clickable tiles with icons or logos to your favorite websites.  You can drag and drop items to organize them in a way that is convenient and practical for you.


With Symbaloo, you have all your favorite websites at your fingertips.  Symbaloo stores your bookmarks in the cloud so that you can access my favorite sites from any device in any place with an internet connection.  Hopefully, this Tech-Tip will save you at least a little time by helping to organize your online life. (1)

How can I use this for my class?

Webmixes can be created for a variety of purposes.  Elementary teachers can create a
webmix and color code sections for different subjects, or create one to use specifically in the computer lab.  Symbaloo’s colorful, picture-based interface makes it easy for our youngest students to access a website or Google Doc.  Imagine the increase in productive lab time if all they need to do is click on a tile to get to Starfall.

Secondary teachers can have subject-specific webmixes available for students to use in or out of school.  They can also make ones for specific tasks such as test-taking skills or applying to colleges.pasted image 0.png

Teachers embarking on the Project-Based Learning journey can create a webmix containing information that covers all of the eight Essential Elements.  Documents, forms, spreadsheets, and media can be put into a sequential arrangement to allow for more “in-depth inquiry” time and less “where is it?”

Special Education or Gifted teachers can have multiple webmixes (there is no limit) to differentiate their digital resources for the different levels they teach.  They can use Symbaloo as a remediation tool, an enrichment tool, or both!

Teachers who are Flipping or Blending their classrooms can create a webmix of step-by-step instructions, including video, to bring a lesson to your students’ homes.  This can be saved and edited as needed for different classes.

Flipped?  Blended?  PBL?  SOL?  EL? ESOL? Teachers can have webmixes for their own PD to share with their PLC.  Timely articles and websites can be collected ASAP to be used.

If you do not wish to reinvent the wheel, you can use others’ webmixes.  However, you must be very careful:  PLEASE CHECK EVERY SITE THAT WILL LINK TO YOUR WEBMIX!!  Use your professional judgment to check for curricular content and anything else that may appear on the site (ads, links, etc.).  Also, check each site’s “Terms of Service” to make sure students can use the site safely.

Share Your Webmixes

Once your webmixes are ready for use, you may share them with your students through embedding or linking.  Embedding allows you to place it on a Google site, where students can access your webmix immediately.  The link to the webmix can also be shared via Google Classroom or on a Google Doc.  Although tempting, do NOT have students create Symbaloo accounts.  They can access your webmixes without having to create one.  Symbaloo’s Terms of Service does not allow anyone under age 13 to create an account and requires parental permission account creation by children ages 13-16. (2)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!

  1. https://mscomputerteacher.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/how-to-use-symbaloo-an-awesome-bookmarking-service/
  2. https://sites.google.com/a/ccpsnet.net/edtechhub/tech-services/integrators/blog/symbawhosymbaloo

Tip 11 – Use Audio Recording to Boost Learning


In the classroom, I was always trying to find ways for students to get involved in quality discussions about their learning.  Teachers know of and implement many strategies to get students talking about their learning, from arranging desks for group work or organizing Think-Pair-Share situations.  Audio recording, where students record their own voices responding to prompts or an assignment, just might offer another way for students to talk their way through their learning.

Some ways you might want to use audio recording in your classroom are…

  1. Brainstorming: Before students start a research project, audio recording can speed up the brainstorming process. Although more fluent writers can quickly fill the page with possible topics and plans, hesitant writers may struggle to jot down even a few ideas. With audio recording, struggling students can focus on the creativity and thinking instead Photo 2013-04-16 8 37 01 AM.jpgof stressing over spelling errors. (1)
  2. Refining voice: Audio recording can help students listen for the tone and voice that can be tough for students to recognize, let alone control. For narrative writing, audio recording gives students a chance to hear the colorful comparisons or folksy interjections in their speech so they have a vision of voice to take to the page. After choosing a narrative topic, we might ask students to use audio recording as a step between brainstorming and drafting. Whether teachers choose more open questions or targeted prompts, audio recording gives students a chance to hear their own voices add drama through pauses, repetition, or startling comparisons. Audio recording is one step in the writing process that gives some students the confidence and ease they need to let their voice shine through their writing. (1)
  3. Practice & Revision: Even published authors read their writing out loud to check for errors or confusion. At times, we ask students to audio record themselves reading their work aloud as a way to hold students accountable for practicing this important revision step. When students play back their recording, they have a new tool for encountering their text and finding places to revise. With group work, audio recording offers a practice space before final presentations. For example, if students are working on integrating primary sources in a social studies class, audio recording can help them listen for appropriate source introductions. (1)
  4. Self-assessment: When students are self-assessing or reflecting on their strengths, or challenges, recording their thoughts instead of writing offers a space free of red pen marks. In audio recording, students can back up, self-correct, and restate as they think. We find that language learners are particularly fond of this approach: it’s a safer place to practice new vocabulary. Most students are already eager to talk about their experiences. With audio recording, they can complete the assignment in a medium with which many of them are already quite practiced and comfortable. (1)

Using the Chromebook for audio recordingdownload-7

SoundCloud  Soundcloud is very easy to use.  With one click you can start recording your own track.  You can also upload sound tracks you have saved on your computer.  Soundcloud also allows you to add comments to your audio tracks and share them with your students and friends. (2)


download-8Vocaroo  Vocaroo is another web-based tool that allows users to easily make audio recordings and share them with others.  Vocaroo does not even require a sign-up and to start recording your audio, just head over to Vocaroo main page, click on record and there you go.  Audio recording made by Vocaroo can be downloaded or shared using an embed code. (2)



Voice Recorder  Online Voice Recorder is a free simple application which records sound from microphone.  After recording you can trim the sound and save it to your computer. (2)


As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!

  1. https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/4-ways-audio-recording-can-boost-classroom-learning?
  2. http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2014/10/6-good-chromebook-apps-for-recording.html

Tip 10 – Research any Topic Interactively

60859848.jpgI remember a time, way back in the day, when I had to actually get up, get dressed and go to a physical place called a library to do any type of research on a topic.  This fabled place had an enormous amount of objects called books.  Books were a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.  Sometimes the books even had pictures!  The books were organized by an evil genius named Dewey, whose system befuddled even the most studious children.  Also, there was a very helpful creature who resided there, known as a Librarian, who technically was a search engine before the internet was even a thing.


So obviously, the way we conduct research has changed drastically since most of us were in school.  I can tell you that it is also still changing and becoming more and more efficient all the time.  Today’s Tech-Tip will hopefully provide you and your students a new way to conduct much more efficient research on the internet.


Stop Googling around and get to Grokking

“Google is great at searching the internet, but what if you want to search the internet to learn?  Say, for instance, you want to learn about black holes.  With Google, your search will return a list of websites, at which point you’ll likely open a web page (Wikipedia, NASA, et. al), and begin to read.  Then comes a mention of Albert Einstein, and you want to learn more about him, so you open a new tab, and run another search.  Same thing for supernovas, event horizon, and dark matter.  By the end of your journey, you have 10 tabs open, and cannot seem to trace your first thought to your last!”

“Your typical search engine is not so good at facilitating learning experiences.  Learning with traditional search is fragmented, static, and confusing.  InstaGrok has reimagined the way people learn and interact with digital content.  The platform is designed to encourage an organic learning and research experience.  The interactive concept maps are designed to mimic the way we naturally learn; identifying and understanding the main topic, seeing how related topics connect to the main concept, and allowing users to track their entire learning journey.  The multimedia resources on instaGrok aim to engage, inspire, and educate users.”

Below is what learning about Benjamin Franklin Looks Like with Google.Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 8.44.51 AM.png

Below is what learning about Benjamin Franklin looks like with instaGrok.Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 8.45.07 AM.png


InstaGrok is a research engine that lets you learn about any topic.  A graphical concept map shows you how important ideas connect.  You can also customize the maps with key facts, links, and 3f9e39aa11906fd51a40699ae6958acc_400x400.pngimages and share them with your friends.

InstaGrok bears an initial resemblance to a search engine, but it displays information in an entirely different fashion.  After entering a query, users are presented with a concept map laying out the important concepts and relationships that comprise the researched topic.

Users can:
• Click on connected concepts to focus on what’s most important to them
• Adjust the results to suit their level of expertise
• Read key facts, visit relevant websites, view images,watch videos,
and take quizzes
• Customize the concept map by pinning important information to it
• Share customized maps via email and across the web

“So if your goal is to truly learn, rather than just accumulate fragments of information, and you are the type to indulge your endless learning curiosities, give Grokking a try instead.”

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!



Tip 9 – Happier Classrooms with Class Dojo







Look familiar?  I hope not, but if so…Perk up buttercup!  I know you’re very interested in getting those children excited about learning.  Today’s Tech-Tip just might be able to help you in your endeavor to bring some enthusiasm to your classroom!

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.27.38 PM.png


ClassDojo is a digital classroom management system designed to foster positive student behaviors, improve classroom culture, and help communicate more effectively with parents.  Each student gets an avatar, which the child can personalize, and teachers create goals or behaviors to track, such as turning in homework, participating in class, or staying on task.  Teachers can use a smartphone, tablet or computer to give or take away points throughout the school day.  Each student’s points can be displayed via a smart board, and teachers can generate reports to send home to parents.  Check out this video to see how it works.

1000272_orig.jpgClassDojo encourages more opportunities for feedback between teacher, student, and parent.  By offering a quick, easy way for teachers to note behaviors as they happen, teachers can gather more data about individual students and give them feedback nearly instantaneously.  Instead of interrupting instruction time, teachers can simply take away points in order to alter a bad behavior and give points to reinforce good ones.

Class Dojo for Teachers

Most of the teacher’s work is done primarily through Class Dojo’s Dojo Point system and messaging system that connects teachers and parents.  Class Dojo is fully accessible on computers, tablets, smartphones, and can even be used on interactive whiteboards and projectors.

Teachers set up their Class Dojo profiles through their website.  The process begins by naming the class and assigning a grade level.  Teachers are prompted to establish class screen696x696.jpegvalues.  Class Dojo includes six pre-existing ‘positive’ class values that teachers may opt to choose from:

  • Helping others
  • On task
  • Participating
  • Perseverance
  • Teamwork
  • Working hard

Class Dojo also suggests five ‘needs work’ class values:

  • Disrespect
  • No homework
  • Off task
  • Talking out of turn
  • Unprepared

After establishing parameters for class values and Dojo unnamed.pngPoints, teachers can manually populate their class rosters or copy and paste student names from Microsoft Word or Excel documents.  Student profiles are assigned a unique Dojo monster, a character that appears on the student’s personal page.  Teachers then invite parents to join their Class Dojo classroom by printing invitations or sending a text message or email with a unique access code for their student’s profile.

Class Dojo for Parents

Parents can access Class Dojo through the Class Dojo website or by downloading the iOS or Android apps.  Parents can access behavior information for multiple children across multiple classrooms by adding each unique access code assigned to them.

Similar to the teacher page, parents class-dojo.pngcan view their child’s behavior donut (see picture to right), a circle graph that shows the breakdown of behaviors for the chosen time period.  Parent profiles include access to Class Story, Messages, Notifications, and ‘Your Kids’ to move between multiple student profiles.  Within the website or app, parents can receive and send messages to their child’s teacher.

Class Dojo for Students

Students are assigned a Class Dojo ‘monster’, a little character associated with their personal profile.  Through the Class Dojo website, students may see the number of Dojo Points they’ve earned (or lost) as well as a breakdown of their progress over time.  Students cannot see their Dojo Points in relation to other students.

The Class Dojo website provides users with a number of resources, including videos geared towards learners.  Class Dojo’s Big Ideas videos feature the Class Dojo monsters and teach students lessons about things like teamwork and perseverance.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.29.36 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.29.51 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.30.14 PM.png

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


Tip 8 – Help Me Google!

G Suite


For those of you that may not have noticed, Google Apps have a new name…G Suite.  In an article explaining the change, Google stated “We created Google Apps to help people everywhere work and innovate together, so organizations can move faster and achieve more. On September 29, 2016, we introduced a new name that better reflects this mission: G Suite.  The new name and logo will appear in the Google Admin console, online help, and email notifications. G Suite is still the same all-in-one solution that you use every day, with the same powerful tools like Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar. Your services and pricing remain the same.”

downloadWith all that being said…Guess what.  I have a little secret.  Sometimes I don’t always know the answer to the Google question you’re asking me about.

Sometimes you’re all like, “Hey, what about when I try to do this one thing in Google and then this happens and I see this one other thing too.  What do I do then?”

Then I’m all like, “Well, first you need to do this, then that, and then the other thing.”

What’s my secret?  Well, don’t tell anybody, but I have a cheatsheet!  Seriously, don’t say anything.  This could really affect my job security!

G Suite Training

A great new extension called “G Suite Training” came along with the new name.  G Suite Training is a Chrome extension that offers simple and interactive training lessons to get you up and running fast with G Suite (formerly Google Apps).

You can set up the G Suite Training Chrome extension to access interactive, self-paced G Suite lessons directly in your browser.  This free extension adds a Training menu (Training for G Suite menu pictured above) to G Suite services, including the Admin console, Calendar, Classroom, Docs, Drive, Forms, Gmail, Google+, Groups, Hangouts, Sheets, Sites, and Slides.  Once you’ve added the extension, you simply click the menu to see relevant lessons.  Each lesson is quick and easy-to-follow, with onscreen instructions and tips to guide you.  The extension is simple to use, making it an ideal way to learn about new features and increase G Suite.


You can install the G Suite Training Chrome extension directly from the Chrome Web Store as follows:

  1. Make sure you are signed into Chrome.
  2. Click on the link to open the G Suite Training page in the Chrome Web Store.
  3. Click Add to Chrome. The Training menu (Training for G Suite menu) appears at the top of the screen the when you refresh your G Suite services.

View Lessons

To view G Suite Training lessons:

  1. Sign into Chrome with your G Suite credentials.
  2. Go to the G Suite service you want to learn.
  3. Click the Training menu (Training for G Suite menu) for a list of relevant lessons, or use the search feature to find a particular lesson.
  4. Select the lesson and follow the onscreen instructions.

Below are some screenshots of what a lesson might look like.

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 10.10.07 AM.png

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 10.09.55 AM.png

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 10.10.15 AM.png

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email (lawsonj@talawanda.org) or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Enjoy your time off and have a great Thanksgiving!  Here are some fun Thanksgiving memes for your enjoyment.



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