Thanks for checking out our blog! Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How is your posture?

It is very exciting when we get mobile devices in the hands of our students! There are so many wonderful things they can create. Once the rules have been reviewed and students know the expectations for their project we let them go and many times they are off and running (not really running, we wouldn't allow running with an iPad in our classrooms)!

When I first started using iPods (Yes, iPods... iPads were not even made yet) my rule was the iPod lays flat on the table and we use one finger to navigate it. After many conversations with my chiropractor, about the neat things my students were doing, he asked me about their posture. This is something I did not think of while my students were using iPods in my classroom.

My chiropractor, Dr. Mark Roerick at Advantage Chiropractic, is on a mission to help everyone have correct posture while using mobile devices. All mobile devices

  • iPods
  • iPads
  • Chromebooks
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Cell phones
and the list goes on. We worked together to create a website with resources for teachers. 
to visit the website. We also created a couple one minute videos you can show your kiddos before they use their devices to help them get into the correct posture. 

When you visit the website, find the corresponding age group to see the YouTube video. We know that not all schools have YouTube open (our district opened it this year) so we also included a link to the video in Vimeo. Side note- Have you used safeshare.tv to share YouTube videos with your students in a protected environment? We love it because it takes the video out of YouTube, takes away the comments, suggested videos and all distractions. Check it out here


We are guessing that most of our readers work with the younger grades and the video above are most appropriate. But, if you have a connection with teachers in older grades, feel free to pass the following resources along to them

Safeshare.tv Link http://safeshare.tv/w/HlUIXhBAxT  Vimeo Link https://vimeo.com/109647174  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Where or where has Normoff gone?! Where or where could they be?!

No worries, we are still here! We've been super busy doing some fun (and not as much fun but more like hard work) things. Angie and I are still both very active in all things teaching and technology. We are still presenting at various conferences and school districts, and have had a great time meeting and learning from so many people! Unfortunately with all that we have had going on this blog has been a little forgotten {tear} So wanted to drop by to let you know that we are gone but not forever. Both Angie and I have taken to our own blogs. Angie's is http://angiekalthoff.blogspot.com/ and mine is http://teachernorman.blogspot.com/.  

I started my own personal teaching blog after attending TIES 2014 and hearing what a wonderful reflection piece it can be for teachers. I LOVED blogging here, but I decided that it would be best to do my own as some of what I will be writing about will be Kindergarten stuff (with technology included of course!). Angie is super busy with her Technology Integrationist position and she blogs about many things that relate to that. Not to mention the many speaking engagements she does-she really loves sharing her love of technology with other educators! 

Angie and I presented at the TIES 2014 conference and one of our attendees said the following:
'You did an awesome job of presenting...my favorite sessions were with you! You are down-to-earth and realistic about what you share...and also full of inspiring, creative ideas. THANK YOU!!'

So know that we are still around but just taking a break from blogging here. Please check out or individual blogs and continue to stay tuned with The Techie Teachers! We are so glad you stopped by!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Managing my PLN

If you have read some of our previous posts you understand how we value our Personal Learning Network (PLN). There are so many different platforms available to connect with others online from all over the world. It is even better when we are able to meet people from our PLN in person. I just got back from the iSummitMN a little of a week ago and I am looking forward to the ITEM conference up in Duluth on March 15. My friend Andrea and I will be running the unconference in the afternoon.

Back to managing your tools for your PLN. I use HootSuite to watch hashtags (#) , follow certain groups of people and post to multiple accounts.

Have you heard of Twitter Chats? Here is a list of Twitter chats by day of the week and time
If you are solely using the Twitter application, these chats will be hard to follow. HootSuite allows you to make a stream following a hashtag of your choice. Sunday night at 7pm Minnesota educators are using the hashtag #MNlead to discuss leadership in education. If you want to follow along in the conversation, I would recommend using a service such as HootSuite. 

Typically when you participate in a Twitter chat there is a moderator or two who lead the conversation. They will post a question and  people will respond to the question. To stay organized and make it easier to follow the moderator will use some thing along the lines of Q1) or Q1-  which means "Question 1" and when others respond they will use A) or A1- which means "Answer to question1". If someone posts something of interest, that you would like to comment on, you can reply to the tweet. It is important for you to remember to include the hashtag so that others in the chat will see your comment.

My HootSuite view

In my HootSuite account I have multiple pages and each page has a different purpose.

  • One page has the top people I follow and interact with. This allows me to easily navigate their Twitter posts and interact with them.
  •  Another page is just for information about me. I see when someone Direct Message (DM) me, posts at me (@), and a stream of new followers. 
  • My third page is a page of conference hashtags (#). I love to connect with others via Twitter while conferences are going on. If I am in a great session I will Tweet out what I am learning, when I attend EdCamps I typically tweet my notes for the day, and if I am leading Professional Development (PD) I will share my resources. 
  • My last page brings us back to the Twitter chats. I went through the list of daily chats and chose one chat per day. If I ever have some down time, I will got to this page and read through previous chats or contribute to a live chat. (Picture above)

My Personal Learning Network has influenced me immensely as a teacher and learner. I have connected with so many wonderful people over the past few years, whom I would have never had the chance to connect with. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


A little over a week ago I had the privilege of presenting at the iSummit in Minnesota. I am always excited when a new learning opportunity comes my way, and even more excited when it is with this wonderful group of people.

I lead two sessions.

My first session was an iPad Refresher session. People who were new to iPads and people who were looking for more from their iPad attended. I would say there were around 30 participants in the room. I had extra help from the Hopkins Genius Team.
Here is a link to my presentation. http://goo.gl/OyCQKu 

My second session was on Elementary Engagement. I shared to ways for teachers to use their iPad to help with management and assessment. I used Reflector to reflect my iPad onto my laptop to demo a few parts of the apps. The second part of the session was for people to explore different ways for their students to use iPads and extension activities.
Here is a link to my presentation.  http://goo.gl/vCHGpE 

As always, after a session at a conference it is great to leave feedback for the hosts. So.... if you attended my session and didn't leave feed back you can do that here Session Evaluation ! It is not too late!

I look forward to Flipped Education's next event in May: Minnesota Google Summit aka #MNGS

If you would like to know more about my day at #iSummitMN please visit my personal blog.
Here is the link to my personal blog. http://goo.gl/yN7tgb
  -- Angie--

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

App Review: Stick Pick

Stick Pick has become a must have app for my classroom and I believe it can truly help any classroom teacher no matter what age level! I first heard about Stick Pick at an Anita Archer workshop (she's great by the way!) when she was discussing formative assessment for today's classroom. Stick Pick is a teacher tool that has transformed my whole group differentiation and excelled my students' comprehension and academic achievement.  This app beats calling on students using the old 'pull a stick with a name on it from a can' method (although that is essentially what this is but with a whole lot of awesomeness in that can!) Priced at $2.99 it is an app that is definitely worth its weight in popsicle sticks! We feature this app in our formative assessments utilizing iPads classes for educators and here are a few (okay many) reasons why and the basics of Stick Pick:

  • Create as many classes as you want within the app. This is great for tracking progress across multiple academic areas or for teachers who have many classes/small groups that they see in a day. I know of an interventionist who uses this app and loves it!
    • You can use it as just a can with sticks with names on them if you want, or you can have question stems assigned to each student that will appear when you pull their stick.
    • The question stems are categorized into three modes: ESL, Bloom's Revised or Bloom's. 
    We love that we can set what
    type of questions to ask students!
      • You assign each student within those three modes. The breakdown of the modes are:
        • ESL: Beginning, Early Intermediate, Intermediate, Early Advanced, Advanced
        • Bloom's Revised: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating
        • Bloom's: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation

      • When you notice that a student is either struggling or excelling, you can easily go into the student's profile and adjust their question stem level.

      • Once you have all your students entered, you can easily copy an entire class with or without the scores, saving you time on re-entering each student again if you have the same or similar roster. You can also choose if you want to be able to pick a stick by tapping, shaking the device or both and if you want the sound on.  And for all you lefties out there, there is also a left-handed mode! 

      • When you choose your class you will be taken to a screen with all your sticks in a can. From there you can choose to 'peek', allowing you to choose a specific student to assess. Or you can tap/shake your device to let the app randomly choose a stick for you.

      • When a student is chosen (either by you or randomly) a screen appears that shows you their name, the options to assess, reset the stick and mark it as used.  You will also see 10-20 question stems from that student's assigned learning level. We love the options within the question stems and have found them to easily work into whatever content we are discussing.
      Just like when we want our students 
      to pick 'just right work' this app 
      helps us ask 'just right questions'
      • After the student answers you can track if they answered it correct, incorrect or assign them a score of 0-5 on a preset rubric. For Bloom's and Bloom's Revised modes it is a Critical Thinking Rubric. For ESL mode it is a Degree of Elaboration Rubric.
        Critical Thinking Rubric
      • Once you score the student you can either mark it as used so it goes into a different 'used can' or reset the stick to put it back in with the other sticks to be chosen from again. 
        What the main screen looks like
      • The teacher gets to choose what can to pull the stick from, so even if you mark it used you can still access those students' sticks before resetting the entire class. At any time you can reset the class so that all the sticks go back into the main can. 

        • Student's responses and progress is recorded within the app. You can easily go into each student's profile to see their history (super helpful when grading time comes around!) and you can send the information out via email. 
        Being able to see student's past results
        allows us to reflect on student progress

        Whoa! That is a ton of information! It may seem overwhelming to read about, but it really is a simple, easy to use app.  If you are wanting to improve your formative assessments, classroom discussions, and differentiation of instruction this app can help you!

        One of my first ever principal observations suggested that I work on incorporating more higher level thinking questions into my whole group instruction. Working with a group of students that included those who were new to the country with little to no English all the way to gifted and talented students made that goal huge and daunting.  Wish I would've known about this app then, as it really takes all the work out of higher level questioning at the right level for each student! 

        Upper grades can even use this app within their small group work, allowing students to ask each other questions, making their work more on point and productive.  We highly recommend Stick Pick as a top teacher app! Let us know how you are utilizing Stick Pick in your classroom!

        Saturday, February 1, 2014

        Running Records with iPads & App Review: Levelbook

        Levelbook by Von Bruno is a great app for teachers to use when testing their students' literacy. We love that Levelbook is designed, developed and maintained by a professional certified teacher. As of right now Levelbook costs $4.99.

        Gone are the days of making copies and carrying around a binder of running records (yahoo!). Teachers now have a tool that combines their basic running record format with a calculator, stop watch features, and the ability to record the student reading and play it back at a later time. We are big fans of this app because it allows us to go back throughout the year and listen to our students' reading progress with our students! We can share these recordings with other teachers who are working with our students or with parents at conference time. The developer has added many great features in the latest update, and through our conversations with him it sounds like there are many more wonderful features to come!

        Here are some of the other main highlights of Levelbook:
        • Simple and clean format of this app makes it easy to use and access daily.
        • Cloud storage available now so you can access your student's information across multiple devices.
        • Student's audio and running record information is recorded and saved, along with scores, notes and flags. These can be easily seen and accessed under each student's profile, listing them in chronological order. They are also color coded based on whether that book is considered independent, instructional or frustration level for that student.
        • Students are color coded according to their achievement to the benchmark data that you input. When viewing an entire class you can quickly see who is at grade level or below. See picture above.
        • 5 different reading level systems are supported, inlcuding Fountas & Pinnell (what our district uses) as well as Reading A-Z, Reading Recovery, DRA, Lexile, and PM Reader.You select what reading system you are using when setting up your class accounts.
        • You only need to input book titles and information once. The app then remembers it and stores it in a drop down box for you. You can input all your book information ahead of time, or you can add books as you go. We've done both and are big fans of each aspect of this feature! See picture to the left.

        I presented at our district's staff development day on Utilizing Running Records with Your iPad and featured Levelbook during that class. Here is a part of that presentation reviewing running records basics as well a simple how to guide we created for Levelbook. At the very end there is a slide with some of the possible updates coming to Levelbook! As we've said before, we LOVE it when developers take feedback from educators and use it to better their products! 

        We've discussed utilizing your iPads for your classroom running records before in our review in Record of Reading, and we continue to encourage teachers to make the leap from using the old fashioned paper route to using a great app such as Levelbook! It will streamline your running records by freeing up time, space and hopefully a little bit of your sanity! Well we can't promise that last one, but know that we've found Levelbook to help us stay organized, portable and minimize the time we spend assessing--leaving us with more time for teaching! Let us know if you are using Levelbook in your classroom! 

        Tuesday, January 28, 2014

        App Review: Drawing Pad

        We featured Drawing Pad in our iPad Apps for Kids workshops within our Elementary Creation Apps focus this summer, and will continue to recommend it especially after its newest update that happened just a few days ago! Lets take a look at Drawing Pad and what it is that makes it a Techie Teacher approved app and then share some ways that we like to use it in a educational setting!

        The Basics of Drawing Pad: It costs $1.99, with the option for in-app purchases for different coloring books. It does come with 2 coloring books for free: Farm and More Fun.  Each coloring book has over 20 images that can be colored using all of the tools in your artist drawer.  We appreciate that the basics of this app are included in the purchase price, including all the different artist tools, colors, and the saving/sharing feature.  When you first get this app we recommend you watching the short tutorial video that is embedded within the app. It is a very helpful walk through for the app, and it is easy to follow along or go back to if need be. Drawing Pad is labeled as a mobile art studio for all ages, and we'd agree! With the easy to use interfaces preschool and Kindergarten students can explore and not get frustrated. The variety of tools and advanced abilities make this an app that even adult artists can use and love. Whether you are using this in a school setting or at home, know that every artist can create with Drawing Pad!

        How It Works: Open up a new canvas and start working right away! According to the App Store Drawing Pad includes: Crayons, Markers, Paint Brushes, Colored Pencils, Sketch Pencils, Roller Stamp Pens, Erasures, Stickers, Construction Paper, Blenders, Text Sticker Tool, Photo Background Import, Photo Stickers, Gradient Brushes & Crayons, Advanced Brush Control, Color wheel and  a Gradient Panel.  Whoa! There really is any type of medium that you would want. And the best part is, they really do look like what they say they are! The chalk looks like you are drawing with dusty chalk, the crayons color just like Crayolas. This is huge for my perfectionist students who want their visions to translate exactly to the device-just like it would on paper!  You can add text, different backgrounds and use your photo roll to make stickers or background pages. Even better than on paper, Drawing Pad allows you to edit and change as you go,as well as a save feature that allows you to come back to your work again and again.

        What We Wish was Different: Because we don't currently have 1:1 iPads in our classroom, and many of the teachers that we work with during our workshops don't either, it would be great to have the ability to name the work with a student's name. I sent the developer an email letting him know of this suggestion and he thinks it is a great idea, maybe it will be an added feature in an upcoming update! Other than that the controls are simple to use and with the latest update they fixed many of the bugs and updated some features for ease of use (such as a simpler share function and parental control for the coloring book store. We LOVE when developers respond to feedback from their users and Drawing Pad has shown us great customer service so far!

        How to Utilize Drawing Pad in Education: Drawing Pad can be used in place of anytime you have the students illustrating or creating art pieces to accompany their work.  Because it is a creation app the possibilities are endless! How have I been using it in my K classroom? Here is a few ways:

        • As an open ended activity. I have many budding artists in my classroom and Drawing Pad beats the old paper and pencil or even whiteboard and dry erase markers.  For them to be able to experiment with different art tools without me having to purchase them is a huge plus for me! We use it in small groups to discuss various art vocabulary (which often coincides with math vocab!) such as thickness, line, shape, pattern, symmetry and texture.  Many of my creative students will choose Drawing Pad as an academic choice activity
        • As a tool to learn about the writing process.  To introduce my students to how to write a story I use the following steps: Think-Draw-Add Detail-Label-Sentence and always 'when you are done you've actually just begun!'.  Because Drawing Pad lets us save work in an album and come back to it as many times as need be it fits in nicely while students develop this process.  In fact, I'd go so far to say it works better as the ability to erase and change is much easier on the iPad than it is on paper! 
        • As an accompaniment to a research report (or really an type of report!). Because of the multiple tools at your disposal the students are able to create a customized image that they are very proud of, with each one having its own unique properties.  Giving students choice is a huge motivating factor, and I like that I don't have to say 'no' to anything-----ergo No, you can't use your permanent markers that somehow got sent in with your school supplies, despite the fact that you ask every time we illustrate something:/  
        • As a background for assessing learning. Think about the different learning styles. One of them is Spatial Learning. This means they love designing, drawing, visualizing and expressing their knowledge through creation. When I create my lesson plans this is often a hard one for me to incorporate new ideas for. Using Drawing Pad has helped me integrate more spatial learning activities and responses into my curriculum.  Instead of just discussing a habitat in science, I can now upload a picture of a habitat (lets say pond) and the students have to add in what type of things can be found in that habitat. Or, when we learn about bears, I add a variety of bear themed stickers and backgrounds and let the students show me what they know about bears.
        • As a tool for learning vocabulary.  In my classroom we focus on a new set of vocabulary words each week. To provide some extra practice for my EL students I use Drawing Pad for them to practice their vocabulary words.  Using the camera feature I take pictures of the vocabulary word picture cards that are apart of our curriculum.  I then have them put one picture onto a blank screen and then draw another example of that word. For instance, the word fetch shows a picture of a dog fetching a stick. Using Drawing Pad the students then draw next to that picture another example of fetch. They did work such as them fetching a pencil, their sister fetching the milk, or a cat fetching a mouse. This allows them to extend their knowledge with the visual support of what they have been pre-taught. We can then print the vocabulary pictures into a book for the students to read during their Daily 5 work.
        • Interactive displays using QR Codes or AR.  Because of the ease of sending out the student's work and that you can easily print as well, it is fun to use Drawing Pad to make an interactive art display or bulletin board. For example, have the students create artwork. Then record them either as a video or using a voice recording app such as Audioboo and create a QR Code that links the viewers to the artist's explanation of their work! You can even use their artwork as a trigger image for augmented reality using Aurasma app (if this intrigues you check back for a future post on how to do this!
        There are even more possibilities for incorporating Drawing Pad into educational settings! Let us know how you use Drawing Pad in your classroom by leaving a comment below! We recommend Drawing Pad to anyone looking to add a little art into their teaching with technology!