Many (most) mornings during the work week, I start my day with a quick, energetic educational chat called #BFC530BreakFast Club that meets at 5:30am. Clever, right? These educators have helped me grow my Professional Learning Network (PLN) and are a great source of information and inspiration!

Each morning, the topic of discussion is something different, and it’s always suggested by a member of the #BFC530 community.

Right now, I’m looking to gain a better understanding of how teachers view cell phones in the classroom. Once, having phones in the classroom was something that educators were uniformly VERY much against, largely because it was blatantly against school policy and the cell phones did little more than make calls or send text messages. Now that those school policies — and the capabilities of the phones — are changing…well, I’m not exactly sure where we are. (I wrote this post about it a few months ago.) Some teachers allow phones in the class, and some still don’t.

Though I know my own personal preference regarding the use of cell phones in the classroom, I’m certainly not ever one to say that there is a right or wrong answer. I’m really just curious as to why those who allow cell phones do, and those who don’t allow them don’t.

I want to hear more perspectives on this topic.

There will be many times throughout our educational career when we don’t agree with our colleagues or members of our PLN. These differences in opinion are the perfect opportunity to explore the issue with one another, not to form sides of opposition. The more we discuss and debate ideas, the better we will understand them, one another, and ourselves. We will figure it out, together. #BFC530Friday, 1-8-16.jpg

Let’s talk it out on Friday morning. Do you have a BYOD environment? Are cell phones included in your BYOD? Are there certain restrictions involved when including cell phones as BYOD? At what age or grade level are cell phones appropriate? What tasks are they best used for?

~Melissa Morris Inoa

~What did YOU do in school today?



SAMR is a model for educators to use when incorporating technology into teaching and learning. Developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR model provides educators with a framework and understanding in order to plan, develop, and infuse digital learning experiences that utilize technology.

While the model was created in a linear fashion, it’s important to remember that SAMR doesn’t have to be used as a scale or a ladder. It is not necessarily true that technology used as a substitution (S) is inferior to technology used to modify (M), augment (A), or redefine (R) the learning experience. It will depend on the task at hand, the individual students, and the desired learning outcomes to determine the role technology plays in each lesson. 

The SAMR model can simply be used to help teachers see what the technology can do or what it is doing at a given time and implementation. However, when the intention is actually to modify, augment, or redefine the learning experience, the model shows teachers how it is possible to do so through the use of technology.

I like this particular SAMR model, which illustrates the depth of thinking possible when we use technology to transform learning experiences. This image and more info about SAMR was found here: http://learnmaker.co.uk/blog/2015/04/how-the-samr-model-improves-teaching-with-ipad

Here’s another example that I made, using a newspaper as our subject. Take a look at how various applications of technology can change the experience of “reading” the news.

Original: Newspaper is printed on paper and purchased at a newsstand or delivered to the doorstep.

Substitution: Newspaper is now available in electronic format online; can be subscribed to by email or RSS feed.

Augmentation: In addition to being available online, there are now hyperlinks embedded within the news articles which take the reader to further information about the subjects in the news.

Modification: In addition to additional resources hyperlinked in the online news articles, audio clips and videos are embedded to accompany the news stories as well.

Redefinition: Events and news stories can be streamed live online. (No need to wait until the next day to read all about it!)

The more familiar you become with the SAMR model, the easier it becomes to determine which technology applications to use for which lessons and when.

More resources for learning about the SAMR model:

~What did YOU do in school today?

What did you do in school today? with Kristina Nicosia

Today I asked our question: “What did you do in school today?” of Kristina Nicosia, a new Technology Integration Specialist. This series of blog posts includes responses to our question from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments so that together, we will have a better understanding of what is happening TODAY IN SCHOOL. For more information about this series or to write your own response to the question, please visit this page.

I have spent the past 11 years teaching Biology and other Life Science classes, but I recently accepted an amazing position to be a Technology Integration Specialist.

I am excited to bring my experiences as a teacher, teacher leader, and professional development provider to my new district. My first day I was tasked with creating a PD workshop on blended learning for the administrators. Grateful to be in a supportive environment, I proposed a blended learning workshop about blended learning. I was so excited to use my knowledge of PD and adult learning coupled with how I run my own classroom to put together a meaningful learning experience.

To prepare for the PD, the team of administrators had to watch a video I created the night before the workshop. I made a Google presentation, used screencast-o-matic to record the “lecture” and then used Zaption to add a formative assessment. The morning of the PD I used the data from the video to determine levels of understanding, which I used to make groups. There were structured learning experiences throughout the day. Some involved technology while others did not.

The idea was to show them how technology was used to enhance instruction. Overall, the PD went really well and I am excited for my new position.


Screenshots from the screencast-o-matic used in the workshop.

After graduating from Monmouth University with a degree in Biology, Kristina worked as a research and development cosmetic chemist. She worked in a personal care lab formulating to create products for large companies. This left her unsatisfied so she pursued her Masters in Teaching at Monmouth University, and for the past 11 years has been a high school Biology teacher for a school in Central New Jersey. The past 3 years she has been working towards her doctorate degree and currently finishing up her dissertation. For her dissertation she created a statewide community of practice for science teachers. The focus of this sustained professional development initiative is for master and novice teachers to provide support to each other as they work towards implementing problem-based learning and other student-centered strategies in their classrooms. Kristina is hoping to defend her dissertation in early winter. In her new role as Technology Integration Specialist she will be managing, creating and implementing all technology professional development and training opportunities for district staff. She will also be managing operations of the district’s 1:1 Chromebook programs and developing and coordinating training tools l3psuKte_400x400to be used by staff.

In addition, Kristina is the president elect for the Biology Teachers Association of New Jersey. You can connect on the web at BTANJ.org and at the New Jersey Science Teachers Convention. Follow Kristina on Twitter: @kmsusca



New devices, like the Apple Watch, bring even more apps into the picture!

On their phones, tablets, and other devices, students today have access to some pretty amazing apps! In schools, many students are using Chrome apps and extensions on their Chromebooks and iOS and Android apps on tablets. All of these apps make it possible for students to consume, curate, and create digital information in new and exciting ways.

As various apps find their way into more and more classrooms and are used by students and teachers for longer periods of time, we are noticing that the apps are often developed with certain functions in mind, and students and teachers need to use more than one app to accomplish the types of complex learning and problem-solving tasks that we want to do. Many students and teachers, therefore, are engaging in a practice known as “app smashing.”

App smashing, using more than one app in order to complete a desired task, is explained by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) in this blog post from 2013 when he first used the term:  http://kulowiectech.blogspot.com/2013/02/app-smashing-part-i.html. Recently, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) interviewed Kulowiec for her radio program, Every Classroom Matters, and in the interview they discuss the origin of the term and examples of app smashing, and how more and more teachers are exploring the options of using multiple apps together: http://goo.gl/gZyogc.

I like to think that the practice of app smashing is a lot like building a house. We don’t just use a hammer to build a house. We don’t just use a saw. We don’t just use one nail. Many different tools are evaluated so that the best ones are selected and then used in conjunction with one another in order to build a house. This is absolutely true in education as well. We can never rely entirely on just one resource, one application, or one piece of equipment. Instead, we plan instruction around using the most appropriate tools we have available to us, in the right combinations, in order to complete the tasks we set out to do. Just like building a house.

Seeing examples of content that others have created is a great way to learn about new apps, get inspired, and try new things, and students and teachers who have already combined multiple apps are happy to share out their work. Sunny Richardson (@SunnyJune77), Mccright (@mccright), and Dan Gallagher (@Gallagher_Tech) largehave collaborated on a special challenge to get other educators app smashing and to share out their creations called “You’ve Been AppSmashed!”

“This challenge is designed around 5 weeks. Each week you will be creating a final product, sometimes you will be able to choose the apps, other times the apps will be chosen by chance. At the end of the challenge, each successful finisher will receive a badge.”

Information about each of the individual challenges and how to submit the final creations is available here: https://tackk.com/audsuu. More information and examples of final products can be found by following the Twitter hashtag: #YOUVEBEENAPPSMASHED.

Consider yourself officially app smashed!

~What did YOU do in school today?


For so many educators, this school year is bringing a lot of change!

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Learning that once took place in a computer lab can now take place anywhere.

There are changes to policy and procedure, changes in high-stakes testing, and lots of changes in the way technology is being used in school. To incorporate the experiences students have outside of school and prepare them for tests, graduation, and life in a digital world, many schools are now adopting BYOD and 1:1 learning programs.

This means that teachers no longer have to depend on signing out computer labs or borrowing carts of computers. This means that students don’t have to wait to take a turn on devices in the classroom. This means that devices and access to the internet are directly available to each student all day long. This means that the climate and culture of many classrooms are changing. This means that teachers and administrators, along with students, are learning lots of new things.

Cell phones, once banned from the classroom, are now a regular part of the learning environment.

Cell phones, once banned from the classroom, are now a regular part of the learning environment.

Almost instantly, a 1:1 learning environment becomes a collaborative and student-centered learning environment. While classes aren’t going entirely “paperless” they are using much “less paper.”  Some educators, who have been in the field for five, ten, or twenty years are suddenly feeling like it is their first year of teaching all over again.

Professional development for teachers today includes many tutorials and workshops on how to navigate some of the apps and devices the students are using. Beyond the tutorials, educators are sharing best practices for lessons and activity ideas as well as tips and strategies for classroom management in 1:1 environments.

Here are some key points to help new and veteran teachers manage a 1:1 learning environment.

  1. Let it happen gradually.  Changing a classroom climate and culture is not going to happen overnight. Start small and start slow.  Choose one new thing at a time to change, and when you get used to it, choose something else.
  2. The teacher is still in charge of the classroom, not the technology.  When new technology is introduced into a classroom, some teachers feel like it takes over.  Don’t let it.  The teacher is still in charge of managing the classroom.  Setting up classroom routines to “close lids” on laptops and “flip” tablets over so that the screen is hidden are helpful in making sure that students are focused on the teacher or other speakers in the class during whole group work.
  3. The technology is not a separate entity.  The technology in the classroom does not need to be treated as anything foreign to the course. Incorporate the technology into existing classroom routines and policies instead of developing new policies around the technology. Think of it as you would a pencil, textbooks, loose leaf paper, markers, poster board, test tubes, or any other classroom materials.
  4. Not everything needs to happen “in the cloud” or on a device.  When
    Students work with digital and paper resources.

    Students work with digital and paper resources.

    something is new, we tend to want to use it all the time; that’s part of our human nature.  Balancing instruction and activities that are digital or online with other methods of instruction is important, especially while students and teachers are transitioning to new ways of doing things. Hybrid learning environments are most like what students are familiar with outside of school anyway.

  5. Use the technology to transform and redefine the learning experience.  Aside from direct instruction that is intended to teach students a particular computer skill or program, don’t use the tech just for the sake of technology. Once familiar with technology options and uses, thinking about how the technology will improve or redesign lessons will make choices about integrating technology much easier.
  6. Make sure students feel like they have a voice.  Students want to find out new ways to do things and they want to share what they know. Let them. Giving students a change to share what they know or ask them for help will create a strong community feeling in the classroom and everyone will learn the best ways to utilize the technology that is available.
  7. Keep assignments about what students learn, not the tool they use. When assigning a task, don’t worry so much about the program or app the students will use to complete it. Give clear, concise directions (and a rubric or checklist) so that students know what concepts and skills you are looking for them to demonstrate…and leave the rest up to them.  Let them decide if they want to use type a document, make a video, or use pencil and paper, as long as they meet all the requirements of the assignment.
  8. Speak honestly and routinely with students about good digital citizenship. Remind students that the internet is a public space. Remind students that they should treat people online fairly and kindly, just as they would in person. Remind students that the technology they use in school is not a toy and should be used for academic purposes.

The education profession will keep changing with the world around us, even after we move to BYOD and 1:1 learning environments. New research, new technology, and new policies will continue to change education as we know it. Once the practices listed above are in place, it will be difficult for any teacher or student to imagine a 1:1 learning environment without them, and it will make it a lot easier for everyone to adapt to future changes.

What did YOU do in school today?


submission formTeachers are constantly assessing these days.

Whether it be formative or summative assessments, we are collecting feedback from our students to monitor their engagement, participation, and progress.  Many of these assessments are now digital, and a simple Google Form makes all the difference in the world when managing the collection, review, and scoring of these assessments.


  1. Students submit the assignment through the form. This helps instill a sense of responsibility in the student (as opposed to simply granting a teacher access to the documents).
  2. The forms can be created quickly.  Just few minutes of setup time will save hours searching for and opening assignments.
  3. The forms can be customized.  Each teacher can collect the information in the manner her or she prefers.
  4. The information is collected in a Google Spreadsheet.  This allows the teacher the option to record grades and write notes directly alongside the assignment.  From there, the teacher can sort the sheet by grade or note in order to pull small groups for conferences or to keep track of assessments to use as future student models of work. Also, the spreadsheets can be shared between team and co-teachers.
  5. Any assignment with a URL can be collected this way.  This is great for collecting and keeping track of Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, videos, Symbaloo Webmixes, Padlets, and more!



Later, after several assessments have been collected, the responses collected in the spreadsheet can be sorted by student.  This data can be used during student conferences, and with conferences with the students’ parents.  The information can be shared with students so that they can include it in their own portfolios to reflect on their progress.

If you have been using Google Forms to collect assignments, or have any questions or suggestions about using this application, please leave a comment below.

~What did YOU do in school today?


While students are in our classrooms every school day, all over the world, people are creating, sharing, and consuming information.  Every second, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, and other social media outlets are connecting people and ideas.

It begs the question, just how much real-time learning is happening in our classrooms today?

This real-time infographic from Penny Stocks Lab helps put into perspective how quickly data is generated and shared on some of the most prominent internet sites by updating totals with estimated data every 60 seconds: http://pennystocks.la/internet-in-real-time/

Click the animation to open the full version (via PennyStocks.la).

This is a powerful resource to let run in the background during meetings, PD sessions, parent workshops, etc. as a reminder of much information is created and consumed during such a short timeframe and to spark some interesting conversations about what being “college and career ready” really means today.

~What did YOU do in school today?


Though I have been using Google products in my language arts classroom since 2006, this is the first year that ALL of my students are starting the school year with their own Google Apps accounts. This means that we can get started using Google right away to complete the all-important tasks of setting goals, reflecting, and self-directing student learning.

First of all, the students will become familiar with Google apps – and just how intuitive and easy-to-use they are – as they utilize Google Drive for all of their compositions.  To get the ball rolling and to set the example for them, I’ve created – or updated – all of my handouts through Google Drive this year, and I’m sharing them electronically with my students as links on my classroom blog.  By accessing my materials through Google Drive, students will see the layout and get a good idea for what they can do within Google Docs.

Also, we are using Google Sites to create student-managed, electronic, customizable, free portfolios.  These portfolios will house examples of their work from each of our units of study, the goals they set for themselves, their reflections as they make progress toward achieving those goals, data from all sources of assessment from throughout the year, and other artifacts that pertain to this work.  We already have the first few features set up, and as we get further into our curriculum, we will set up and add to the rest of it.

After each unit of study, the students will also use their portfolios as they practice their presentation skills.  Students will present their work – as well as how it connects to their future work and the world in which they live – at the end of each unit.

We will also be utilizing Google Reader as we delve further into our independent reading, so that students can customize and individualize the reading material available to each of them.  Students will self-select the blogs which they would like to follow and read on a regular basis.

There are tons of other ways we are already utilizing our Google accounts this year (Groups, BrainPop, Images, Forms, etc.), but Drive, Sites, and Reader are the ones I plan to focus on most here on the blog.

I am so happy to say that the first few days of school have been a great success, the portfolios already look fabulous in their initial stages, the students are enthusiastic, and I am excited to see just what they will be able to create with these amazing Google tools this year.

What did YOU do in school today?  


With just a few days until my new students start school, I wanted to put together a video tutorial for them (and their parents) so I could free up our valuable class time that I would otherwise have to use by showing the students how to find information on the blog, where to find resources, or how to leave comments.

Since the students will learn how to use the blog at very different rates (based on their own comfort level with technology and their interest in actually utilizing the blog), a video tutorial is the perfect way for me to get this information out to them.  Students (and their parents) can watch, pause, or replay the video at their own convenience at home and as often as needed.

To make the video (on my very OLD MacBook in need of new updates) I used a FREE online service called Screencast-O-Matic.  It did not require any downloads or login, and it worked nicely with my very old operating system.  I was able to record the video and upload it to YouTube absolutely free. (There is a paid version which – I’m sure – will work a lot faster than the free one. But free is free.)

Here is the video tutorial that I made for the blog:

There are a few more free screencasting options that I want to try, but I would definitely use Screencast-O-Matic again.

What did YOU do in school today?


With more and more technology finding its way into schools all the time, there is a lot for teachers to learn. It can be intimidating to pick up a new device or try out an unfamiliar program. We are lucky, though, because some of the best technology instructors come into our classrooms each day; they are our students.

Recently, one of my 7th grade students showed me how to save a shortcut for a web page to the home screen of an Apple product. Only having my iPad2 for a few months, this was exciting news to me.

I created a short audio recording, with screen shots from the iPad, to explain how this feature works.

Even if you are already familiar with the “add to home screen feature” (as many of my colleagues were when I shared this news with them), check out this short video anyway. I created it with a free iPad app called Educreations.

The Educreations app allows you to create a tutorial with multiple pages, add photos, add audio, and draw with a variety of pen colors. I found it pretty easy to use. (Of course, as with any audio tutorial program you use, rehearsal will make it even easier to create valuable resources for your students.)

Add to Home Screen Feature for Apple Products

What did YOU do in school today?

(*Note, the Educreations app offers an embed code to use with blogs, but when I use the code here, it just gives me a link, not an embedded video.  I’m not quite sure at the moment if I’m having a WordPress issue or an Educreations issue…)