Blog‎ > ‎


Found a tip you love or are stuck, let me help!

posted Dec 22, 2015, 5:49 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 22, 2015, 5:56 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid is a fantastic video conferencing tool. It is a free service that works almost identically to Google Hangouts. There are many benefits to using a tool like this in your classroom, especially when it comes to distance learning. This post will highlight the tool, and some of the most innovative ways that it can be used.

The Tool
  • Share by just copying and pasting the link. You can reopen it at any time
  • You can have up to 8 participants
  • You can share your entire computer screen, or just your video window
  • You can chat along side the video window, allowing you to pass links and content through a text medium
  • There are mobile apps allowing this to go anywhere, at anytime!
  • Notifications allow you to know if someone entered the room, it chatting, or needs help!
Innovative Ways
All of these options come with some coaching. It is important for students to know how to respectfully interact when you are not there to supervise. A digital sign off for items like this would also be a good failsafe as a teacher. 
  • Create rooms for students to connect outside of school
  • Create a tutoring room that is open after school hours
  • Host a connection day, where rooms are connected throughout the district's buildings
  • Build a link to a tutoring room, and paste it as a QR code on a worksheet for assistance outside of school
  • As a specialist, we use this room to answer quick questions and tutorials for staff, and ourselves
  • Open a portal in the hallway to another class, in another country. Allow for innovative interactions
  • "Skype" with experts in the field. Bring the outside into your classroom
  • Re-design staff meetings, PD sessions, and your classroom with online portals!!!

American Panorama

posted Dec 21, 2015, 6:00 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 21, 2015, 6:01 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid
American Panorama is a fantastic cutting edge website that takes the most interactive mapping tools, and combines it with history. Like Chronas, this tool is breaking the norm for the types of learning environments that students should be spending time on. This tool as released in 2015, and will continue to break the norm!

This website offers some amazing data displays. You as the user can toggle on and off filters, views, and readings. The data is extremely helpful for all types of research or to help student visualize what actually happened in history. On top of the information, there are personal narratives embedded in the map. These help students to personalize the stories. 

Currently, this website has four robust maps that take you back into American history. They are:
My personal favorite part of this website is the ending paragraph :

"American Panorama is an ongoing project. In the coming months we'll be adding maps on redlining during the Great Depression, on urban renewal in postwar America, on presidential voting—with more to come after that."

Tools like this are going to pop up more and more as education takes hold of the interactivity that technology offers. 


posted Dec 18, 2015, 5:43 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 18, 2015, 5:43 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid
Chronas is a history project linking Wikipedia and Wikidata with a chronological and cartographical view. This is a huge step in a direction that very few webtools choose to go. Using 3rd party sources to develop and design data for your website is radical, and in my mind, a game changer! 

Chronas is still in BETA phase, which means it will only get better. The original design of this website was to create a Google Maps type of interactive tool, that allows you to zoom back and forth throughout history. At its current state, this website gives students a fantastic tool to jump back and forth through the history of Europe and Asia. There are many conversations that I can think up in my head focused around this tool in your classroom.

The next step for this website is to create open source editing. The author, Dietmar Aumann, has a desire to do this and is working on making it possible. Once this is done, members will have access to change, update, correct, and feed information into this website just as they can in Wikipedia. I am very excited to show this to you and hope that you can all see the potential that this website holds for learning. 


posted Dec 17, 2015, 6:10 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 17, 2015, 6:12 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid
Quizalize is another fantastic whole classroom game for you to integrate into your room. This tool is almost brand new!!! This system is different from the others, but shares some attributes. The others I am referring to are Kahoot! and Quizizz. These three all offer different games for your students to play and all have different strengths. This post will highlight just Quizalize, but you can compare this post to Quizizz vs Kahoot!.

Quizalize is different from the other websites in the following ways:
  • It randomly places students into one of two teams. These two teams are pitted against each other so not only are they competing individually, they are as a group as well.
  • It is self paced. Quizizz also has this feature, but Quizalize allows you to go back and do the quiz again!
  • You can load multiple decks. With this tool, you create a class. Within this class, you can assign multiple quiz's for them to accomplish. Kahoot! and Quizizz only give you codes for each game individually.
  • You can sell your Quiz's. That's right, you can make money on this website. It is so new, that there is little to no content available. Start your Quiz empire today! 
  • You get a fast, readable output of who needs help, and who is successful. This happens as the quiz is being taken. You can see who needs intervention with this visual display.

Final thoughts
All three of these tools (QuizalizeKahoot! and Quizizz) are fantastic ways to assess your students knowledge and get a check in for where your classroom is at. I would recommend providing students a healthy choice of these three through the year. Buying in to one, may not give your students the best results as if you changed it up in moderation.

#TIES15 Summary

posted Dec 16, 2015, 5:59 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 16, 2015, 6:00 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid

It is the day after TIES and like most everybody, I am tired! TIES is an exceptional conference that offers top of the line material to all participants. Not only does this conference focus on local innovation, it targets specific "big wigs" to come and build on what is happening in Minnesota. This post will outline my takeaways and overall thoughts from the two days.

This year's theme was undoubtedly creation. Maker spaces were a very prominent theme throughout many sessions. These environments are fostering kids inquiry, challenging them with coding and hard real world problems, and engaging them in ways that they didn't have before. The theme was also echoed in the device sessions. Presenters did not focus on showcasing specific apps, rather they showed the power in students creating authentic, digital content in their classrooms. 

The overall messaging and learnings from this conference were very consistent. Presents talked over and over again how important it is for your students to be creating digital work. Students today will be entering a world that is not yet created. They will be judged about what they have done, and must show evidence of that. If your learning in the classroom can be thrown into the recycling bin after class, you are not providing your students this opportunity. 

The other key learning I took away was the footprint that students are creating. We had the amazing pleasure of having George Couros be our keynote and he was very clear about how positive your digital footprint can be! He said "We need to make the positives so loud, the negatives are almost impossible to hear!" - @gcouros. All too often, education focuses on what students can't do. They say that you must turn off your cell phone before you come to class, and have to give me your device if you are not listening. Here is how this transfers into students "I don't trust you".  I don't trust that you will use your device to research properly. I don't trust that you will work the entire time on your project. I don't trust that you will stay on task. Here is what you need to think, when you sit in a staff meeting, or even in a PD session, are you on task even 80% of the time. Do you engage 100% of the time during this learning. 

Final Bullets
  • Give your kids authentic tasks to work on that are back mapped to the curriculum
  • Let them create their content rather than "learning" it from an app or website
  • Engage them through technology
  • Model good digital citizenship
  • Get out of their way!

Lecture Racing

posted Dec 15, 2015, 5:34 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 15, 2015, 5:34 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid

Lecture Racing is a small Russian company aimed at engaging students. The cost of Lecture Racing is just $18 per year, making it a very cost effective learning tool for any classroom. 

If you are a PearDeck  user, this is essentially the same thing. It takes an existing presentation, and allows you to present it in a Kahoot! type of style. Unlike PearDeck, there are not interactive tools. You do not have the ability to have a dragable slide or a freehand drawing. This does still show your screen on each students device, allowing your presentation to be mobile, and individual. 

Here are the steps to creating your presentation using Lecture Racing
  • Download the app for both students and teachers
  • Upload the presentation
  • Enter the PIN
  • Create a Quiz
  • Take the Quiz
  • Check the Answers as a class
  • View the Results
  • Rate the presentation

Workflow App

posted Dec 13, 2015, 6:28 PM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 13, 2015, 6:29 PM ]

The gadget you added is not valid

Workflow is rated in the top 5 best designed apps created in 2015 and was also awarded the one of the top apps designed in 2015 by Apple! These are very prestigious awards and this powerful is certainly deserving of such honors! Workflow is $2.99 which is well worth the money. It is a drag and drop scripting app which interacts with countless other apps, widgets, and functions on your iPad. The possibilities are literally endless.

Here are some of my favorites!

Workflow Buttons
These are essentially apps. They are icons you can place on your home screen and help to make your device far more powerful that it is currently. 
  • Tweet GIF
    • This workflow allows you to go from nothing, to tweeting out a GIF with Hashtags! The workflow prompts you to take 3 pictures, it splices them together, then it asks you what you would like to put in for the tweet body. Once that is finished, it automatically places hashtags in the tweet and sends it out! It couldn't get any easier than that! 
  • Clear Lesson
    • I use this A LOT when co-teaching. Since I work with students creating photos, videos, and digital content, I use this app to clear my iPad. Once clicked, it will delete up to 15 of the latest images, and 5 of the latest videos. These numbers are variable, but I find it to be a very fast, effective way to remove the clutter.
  • Feedback Email
    • This workflow is very simple, but extremely powerful. I ask for feedback from teachers with every interaction I have with them. Once you press the button, it opens an email window that already has my signature, the body of the email, and the subject. Since this is generic, all I need to do is input the teachers name after I leave their room and they have the form.
  • TIES Tweet
    • I am posting this because the TIES conference starts today! Use this for any event you are going to. This workflow will compose a tweet for you in half the time it would take in Twitter. It prompts you only for the body of the tweet, that will automatically put in hashtags and send out the tweet. 
These are used when you are on the internet. Clicking on the share button will prompt you to run a workflow. Once you do that, you can choose from a menu of options found below.
  • Create QR Code
    • This workflow takes the URL you are on, automatically generates a QR code, then displays it on the full screen so you can share with students or staff. Combine this by air serving your device, and you have a knockout combination. 
  • Copy Link
    • I use the note app a lot in my job and this makes archiving my time online very easy. This workflow takes the URL you are currently on, then copies the URL to the clipboard, and opens the notes app so you can paste it in your session notes section. 
  • Download YouTube
    • I did not make this one but LOVE it. This app works when you have a YouTube video open in the browser only. When you press this workflow, you can download the video or the audio. I use this to embed videos in iBooks, Pages Files, Numbers Files, or Keynote Files. Without this workflow, It is impossible to do this on a device alone, and would take about 10 minutes. 
  • Get Images from Page
    • This is a cool option if your students are working on creating digital content. It copies all of the images on the page, saves them to the camera roll, and also copies them to the clipboard. Open an app like Book Creator, or Pages to drop all of the images onto it for fast content creation! 
  • Google Copy
    • When viewing a Google Doc online, you are limited in the options you can share with. This workflow takes you from a preview, to a copy forcing QR code. Students just need to scan the QR code this workflow makes, and they will have a copy of the Google Doc, you have just previewed. 
  • Google Export PDF
    • This workflow takes you from a preview, to a PDF Copy download link as a QR code. This is a fancy term, but if you use notability, it changes the number of steps from 7, to just 1!!! Students just need to scan the QR code this workflow makes, and they can open the file in notability to work paperlessly in your classroom. 

Screen Time - Good vs Bad

posted Dec 11, 2015, 5:19 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 11, 2015, 5:19 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid

Screen time is a very hot topic today and one that will only become more of an issue. As the increase of screens and interactive technology climbs, educators are put in a hard spot. They often have pressure applied to them from the community while receiving the opposite message from their school district.This post will outline some of the issues that come with this and offer up a solution.

First, what types are there?
Type 1 - Entertainment
  • This type of screen time is the one that gets all the press. It is what everyone is up in arms about, and it is the one that we are concerned about. Quite honestly, this is the one that I am concerned about. This type of screen time is characterized by a few things.
    • No interaction
    • The intent is to please or calm the viewer
    • The screen is bright, loud, and overstimulating
  • Here are some real life examples of this type of screen time
    • A parent placing a phone in front of a child to stop them from crying
    • A child turning into a zombie from getting sucked into a game
    • A teenager glued to a device waiting for a notification to beep
  • This type of screen time is BAD. It literally changes the way your brain functions and creates chemical addictions. THIS TYPE OF SCREEN TIME SHOULD NOT BE IN SCHOOLS!!!

Type 2 - Learning
  • This type of screen time is characterized by:
    • Rich multimedia
    • Standard driven content
    • Diverse tasks
  • Out of the thousands of teachers that I have worked with, only 1% can do this successfully. I say that again, only 1%. This is an alarmingly small percentage, but it is not localized to just the teachers I have worked with. This is an issue with our educational system today. Teachers lack the skills to create/publish/and assess with technology. Here are some examples of what I am talking about.
    • 5 year old students create non-fiction ebooks and share with a buddy class in England (my kids)
    • Students create, and reflect on work through multimedia platforms that allow student voice and choice
    • Portals are open for students to ask for help from the best leaders in their school or in the nation. 
  • This is good screen time. Students can personalize, and archive their work for a lifetime allowing them to rewind or fast forward their learning at the speed of their finger. THIS TYPE OF SCREEN TIME NEEDS TO BE IN SCHOOLS.
So, How do we get the GOOD screen time in schools?
  • Meet the PD needs of your staff | Is PD Meeting Your Needs?
  • Learn outside of school / conferences
    • The glorious country of the united states spends 892,890,000 hours a year watching TV. That is 199,650,204 on Ads ALONE. Put down the remote, and pick up a book, or go onto Twitter
  • Ask for help!
    • Your specialists know more than you know. Ask the hard questions, challenge them with your moon shot ideas. Coming from me, I wish everyone asked more!!
  • Focus on Best Practices | Future Ready Classrooms | Future Ready Curriculum | Future Ready Assessment
  • NO MORE LINEAR APPS - These are babysitters, not for learning
    • EX. IXL, Tinkerbox, Raz Kids, Sentence Magic... Basically anything that "teaches" standards
  • Create
    • Allow students to create projects that show what they know in the way they choose. Students who do this will remember the content far longer than if they did a worksheet and took a bubble test.

Why Student Tech Teams?

posted Dec 10, 2015, 6:13 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 10, 2015, 6:14 AM ]

The gadget you added is not valid

Many school districts are implementing student tech teams to support and build a community of technology savviness. Our district is not outside of this norm. There are many benefits to having these students in place. This post will outline some of the benefits and reasons why you should implement them today. 

Here is a study done in 2010 reflecting the current growth and the projected growth. It projects a 22% growth in IT jobs between 2010 and 2020.

Job growth forecast

Software developers, systems software392,300519,400127,10032%Much faster than average$ 94,180
Database administrators110,800144,80034,00031%Much faster than average$ 73,490
Network & computer system admins347,300443,80096,50028%Faster than average$ 69,160
Software developers, applications520,800664,500143,70028%Faster than average$ 87,790
Computer systems analyst544,400664,800120,40022%Faster than average$ 77,740
Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects302,300367,90065,60022%Faster than average$ 75,660
Computer & information systems managers307,900363,70055,80018%About average$115,780
Computer support specialists607,100717,100110,00018%About average$ 46,260
Computer programmers363,100406,80043,70012%Average$ 71,380

This graph projects an increase in nonroutine thinking and a decrease in routine work. 

    Besides the societal pushes, there are many localized benefits
    • They can help maintain technology
      • At times, carts need updating or apps installing. These students can help with that!
    • They can keep an eye out for issues
      • They are your boots on the ground. They are far more honest than you think when you ask them what students are really doing on their devices at school
    • They spread innovation
      • Our student tech teams are charged with the task of finding innovative ways their teachers can leverage technology to learn in their classrooms. These are showcased at staff meetings.
    • They push teachers
      • No matter the teacher, they feel the heat when they have multiple techy students in their classroom. On top of that, having an innovative showcase from students helps teachers to see what their students are capable of doing! 
    • They are the future
      • No matter what you think, we all know that tech skills are necessary. These students learn, or hold the best educational technology skills out of the crew.
    How to Create Buy In
    • Offer Perks
      • Different cases, more privileges, open hours, or administration rights.
    • Scaffold Learning
      • Teach these students things that no other students know. Leverage your LMS to have a tech team course and provide them instruction above and beyond others
    • Offer Certificats and Training
      • Many large companies (Google, Samsung) offer training abilities where students can gain a certification for repair, or teaching abilities. If these students strive to go into any field that is technology related, these are irreplaceable.
    • Give them Leadership Roles
      • Allow them to teach others and become the local experts. Even our 4th grade students have taken us up on the offer of teaching a tech tool to younger students!

    Is PD Meeting Your Needs?

    posted Dec 9, 2015, 5:32 AM by Kris Szajner   [ updated Dec 9, 2015, 5:33 AM ]

    The gadget you added is not valid

    PD today is a topic that education continuously discusses. It is the cornerstone of all facilities and often sets apart the good, from the great. Proper PD can make the difference in thousands of students education and proper implementation is key. This post will outline the 5 biggest questions that I get regarding PD offerings for school districts. Please consider all of them the next time you are offered PD. 

    Is it being Measured?
    • Gaining feedback on the effectiveness of your PD is a huge part of proper implementation. Without this loop, you will not see any growth. Check back in with your offerings no later than 8 hours after the session to get the best peek at how it went. 
    • Create a generic survey asking questions like:
      • How easy do you see the implementation of this learning in your classroom?
      • What were three key learnings you took away from this session?
      • What improvements could be made if any, to this session?
    Are you Empowering your Innovators?
    • Every building has those teachers who are high flyers. They love to push the boundaries and strive the be different from their peers. These teachers need to be empowered! They need to be able to share their story with others, both in, and out of your district. Offer to have them present at a staff meeting, or a local conference. If they desire, push them to present at a state level conference. The key is to NEVER say "no". If they want to do it, let them! Taking the time to push these individually will gain traction with others and spread the innovation.
    Are you Offering Enough?
    • This is a tough one because it comes with money. Leveraging the funding you have to the best of its ability is key. Ensuring proper planning, scheduling, and offerings will ensure your event runs smoothly. 
    • There are some ways to work around the money issue. Edcamps are free offerings that can be completely optional. Offering these on a weekend, or outside of the school year relieves the need for funding. Digital offerings provide teachers anytime, anywhere learning. Awarding CEU's instead of funding is also a great change up. 
    Is it Best Practices
    • This is one that is very important and is especially pertinent when discussing technology. The PD needs to reflect the direction that you want to travel as a district. The key here is the alignment of messaging. 
      • Ex. If your district is working hard to push device workflow and creation, sessions regarding specific apps and tutoring websites should not be offered. This is a mixed message.
      • Ex 2. If social media is block at school, learning through social media should not be offered (regardless of how helpful it can be). 
    Are you Pushing?
    • It is a fine balance, and a hard decision to make when choosing what level material to offer. I have seen two successful systems that work well to push all individuals.
      • Match the Audience - Learn where each staff member is at, and offer sessions that match those levels.
        • Ex. If 25% need intro and 75% need advanced, Offer 1 remedial and 3 advanced options.
      • Push the 80% - This method relies on the premise that peers with push each other. The floor is raised and the bottom 20% needs to match suite. There are always teachers who fall into this category, regardless of the reason why, their current practices are extinguished. This can be done softly by offering different best practices sessions, and supporting that learning with specialists work. District wide goals, and expectations also clearly define what needs to happen in classrooms. 

    1-10 of 163