Monthly Archives: June 2016

6 Reflections on Innovation Boot Camp at the Friday Institute

Last week, I had an awesome opportunity to present at and attend the Innovation Boot Camp held by the Friday Institute at NC State University.  The focus of the Boot Camp was for educators to share how they are achieving blended learning in their schools.


There were so many fantastic people there, and I learned some new tools as well as new ways to use tools I was familiar with. Here a few things that I learned that I thought were worth passing along.

1. Newsela

I presented a session where I showed teachers my blended unit called The Grown Up Project. I designed the unit while taking a MOOC-Ed course through the Friday Institute. You can check out my project at the provided links, but it seems that most participants seemed to really fall in love with Newsela. If you are not familiar with Newsela, it is essentially a site that posts current news stories but adapts them to five different Lexile levels to targets a wide range student reading proficiencies. My admiration of Newsela and its work is well-documented in this blog post.

2. Digital Field Trips

Teika Clavell (@teikaclavell) shared her awesome digital field trip about zones of the ocean.. This piktochart she provided can help you build your own field trip. I especially like the steps she provides. I am currently working on tour of American poets with two teachers I met in her session.

3. P.L.A.Y.D.A.T.E.S

What is a P.L.A.Y.D.A.T.E.? It stands for People Learning and Asking Y: Digital Age Technology Exploration. Essentially, it is a scheduled time for colleagues or students to learn about digital tools of their choice. For me, I am wanting to set up some P.L.A.Y.D.A.T.E.s for teachers in each of my schools next year to learn more deeply about technology tools with supportive colleagues. Thanks to Debby Atwater (@atwaterd) for sharing this idea.

4. Seesaw

Seesaw is a learning portfolio tool that embeds nice formative assessment functions that you’ve probably seen in other tools, such as multiple-choice and drawing responses. I am not yet an expert on Seesaw, as attended a short discussion of it. However, it looks promising, and the presenter, Kerri Brown Parker (@bplibrarian) provided a great guide for exploring it.

5. Kaizena

Kaizena is a google add-on that allows you to give feedback on student writing. I had heard of some teachers using it in my school system, but this was the first opportunity to play with it. Kaizena allows you to give verbal feedback via audio recording on student work. In my group, one teacher joked about giving the same feedback over and over again to students, but, Kaizena actually helps with that. You can record audio comments and mini-lessons that can be reused over and over again on different students’ work. The most powerful part of Kaizena is the capacity it has to provide timely and personalized feedback compared to traditional paper comments. Thank you to Ashley McBride (@ashleymcbride86) for teaching me.

6. Canva Presentation Mode

Canva is one of my favorite tools for designing infographics. I highly recommend it because it is user-friendly and makes great designs. I learned in the Tool Slam that Canva now has a presentation mode, meaning you can build your whole slideshow in Canva. That’s something to be excited about. Thanks to Chuck Elliot (@mrchuckelliot) for sharing.