Tag Archives: technology

Five “A-Ha’s” from ISTE 2014


“Just go with the flow.”

That was the advice that one of the digital learning facilitators gave me when she learned that I would be attending the ISTE conference for the first time. And, wow, she was right. No one could have prepared me for ISTE. Over 14,000 educators descended onto the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA, to learn from one another, and enhance the learning of students. I was only able to attend ISTE on Saturday and Sunday (because of some other awesome opportunities I plan blog about later), but my quick dip in the ISTE stream yielded some new insights and resources. Inspired by Angela Watson’s (@Angela_Watson) 10 Big Take-aways post, I thought I would share my five ISTE “A-Ha’s”.

1. Augmented Reality (AR) is appearing in more classrooms.

My first experience with AR was the fun ColAR App I blogged about in March. AR was a recurring theme at ISTE. I finally downloaded Aurasma after having an enthusiastic ISTE AR Network educator demonstrate how the app allows the user to connect a 3D overlay of an picture or video onto a “trigger image.” The app hold much promise for student’s creating their own “auras” as well as activities created by the teacher. In addition, I learned about the Smithsonian’s X 3D website, which allows you to examine 3D representations of artifacts from your device. You can even download the images and print them on a 3D printer. It’s pretty amazing.

2. ISTE educators are even more passionate about relationships than technology.

ISTE really is a community. I identify myself as an “ed tech dabbler,” so an event like ISTE interests me, but it also intimidates me. I was amazed at how helpful and friendly most people were. It seemed that even the most tech-savvy educators cared less about what a person knew than just being excited that he or she was on the journey. From the conversations I had,I realized that many people looked forward to ISTE for networking with other educators even more than learning about technology integration. Caring and concern for students were also at the heart of conversations. I was happy to finally meet Lora Cain (@CainLora) who works with Follett Community, which I joined recently. I was introduced to Lora by my good friend and colleague John Parker (@TheSlamGuy). A few weeks ago Lora asked me to do an interview for the Follett Community site, and then when she learned I would be at ISTE, we met each other in person. Lora was so nice to have me do a video interview for their site at ISTE, too. It was a lot of fun! She is awesome, and we became fast friends.



3. Even the most experienced and tech-savvy teachers still have technology problems.

I felt so bad for the presenter of one of the sessions. Her presentation station had technical problems just before the start time of her presentation. When it began working, the projector would not focus correctly, and there was a big green vertical bar on the screen throughout her entire presentation. And, she just rolled with it. I did too. I acquired some awesome resources from her presentation. More than one person mentioned the glitches that occur when we walk toward the future in regards to technology integration. There were stories of malfunctions, unexpected filters, resistant administrators and colleagues, and terrible wi-fi. But the overarching message was: we keep reaching toward classrooms that reflect our modern world and prepare kids for their futures.

4. Technology enhances literacy skills and learning; it doesn’t replace them.

I actually already knew this, but it makes me happy to be reminded. Oftentimes, I have to remind my colleagues that, as a literacy coach, I actively want to integrate technology into the classroom too. Technology supports a broad range of literacies. Whether it was children’s books created in traditional PowerPoint software, infographics to represent student research findings, strategies to “read” film, or data literacy sets from tuvalabs.com, literacy and technology are inextricably interwoven in 21st century texts.

5. Being a turtle is OK.

During the Genius Hour panel, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) said one of my favorite things at ISTE: “Innovate like a turtle.” She went on to say that when you attend an event like ISTE, you hear about so many ideas that you can become paralyzed. Her advice was to take one or two ideas and begin moving on them. Later on, you can pick up one or two more ideas. So, in honor of innovating like a turtle, I am going to spend time learning more about how to integrate Augmented Reality into the classroom, and leave some of my other ideas and resources in my bookmarks and notes until I’me moved “a few more inches.”


How to Become a DEN (Discovery Educator Network) Star

If you or your school system has access to Discovery Education, you should consider becoming a DEN (Discovery Educator Network) Star. As a DEN Star, Discovery Education gives you a space on their website for your own blog as well as access to support, resources, and professional development that are exclusive to DEN Stars.


I became a DEN Star last spring when I learned how simple the process was from one of the digital learning facilitators in my district. Essentially, you can go to the Discovery Educator Network link on www.discoveryeducation.com. Once you are there, you will read and watch a video that shares what the DEN Star program is all about. Then, you will be asked to host a Discovery Education event.


A Discovery Education event is sharing resources from Discovery Education with three or more educators. Events can be informal sharing sessions, PLC meetings, professional development sessions, or even webinars. For my event, I collaborated with a media specialist in my school to create a one-hour workshop called Technology Tools for Teaching and Learning. We demonstrated how to use Discovery Boards and shared some projects students had made with Discovery’s Board Builder. We also included some non-Discovery tools such as Quizlet, FlipSnack, and Padlet.  As a result of the workshop, many teachers began using Discovery’s Board Builder (as well as some of the other tools) with their students with great success!

To maintain DEN Star status, you must report two events a year. I have just begun to more deeply explore the resources that are available to me as a DEN Star, and they look promising! I certainly encourage you to host an event with some of your colleagues over the summer if you would like to check out the DEN Star resources before the new school year begins.

Three Ways #Educoach Has Impacted my Digital Leadership

I just can’t say enough about my experiences with the #educoach Twitter chat.  I stumbled upon it last December, and I am so thankful that I did.  I highly recommend checking it out.  The moderators, Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ), Kathy Perret (@KathyPerret), and Shira Leibowitz (@shiraleibowitz), do a fantastic job of asking questions that solicit productive conversations.  The chat occurs every Wednesday night at 10 pm (EST).

Being an instructional coach can feel isolating at times.  Although I have contact with numerous educators and students each day, no one in the building has the same role as I do.  I am fortunate that my school district provides opportunities for me to collaborate in a literacy coaches’ PLC twice a month; however, there are so many pressing matters that sometimes I am not able to ask for help from my colleagues in our allotted time together.

The #educoach chat participants are solution-oriented, knowledgeable, and resourceful.  Every chat is a professional growth experience.  I am a member of a community of learners/experts who  are phenomenal encouragers and thinking partners.

Currently, the #educoach group is reading Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger.  I have almost finished reading the book, and I like it quite a bit.  Sheninger’s writing style is straightforward with compelling examples of technology’s transformative role in improving student learning, instructional capacity, community relations, and branding.   I have suggested using Sheninger’s work for a district-wide training for administrators on effective technology integration.  As a result of participating in the #educoach chats around Digital Leadership, three things have occurred that have upgraded my own digital leadership.

1. Tweeting in an #Educoach chat with Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal)

I mean, how cool is that? Being able to see Sheninger’s perspective in real-time was awesome.  His very first tweet in the chat definitely confronted one of my “cherished beliefs”: That the change process has to be slow.  It seems that I develop many of my projects at a snail’s pace because I believe that change must always be slow. That’s how we’ve all be trained.  Since the chat, I am beginning to think outside of that lens.  I am jumping into the “quick change” process both personally and professionally.

2.  Learning how to Obtain Google Educator Certification

So, one important aspect of leadership I’ve learned from reading Digital Leadership is modeling your own learning.  During our first Digital Leadership chat, one participant, Nancy Alvarez (@nancyalvarez12), discussed how she and members of her PLN are working through the Google Educator training together and blogging about it.  She even shared one of her colleagues’ blogs.  I always wonder how someone becomes a Google Educator, and I decided to jump in!  Since then, I have been working through the first module on Google Mail.  I have to say that I am not an expert in all that Google has to offer…yet.  But, I have set a goal for myself to complete the training by the end of August.  In the meantime, it’s more important to show myself as learner than as an expert in the process.

3.  Meeting with #Educoach Participants (via Google Hangout) About Blogging

During the last #educoach chat, several of us discussed our desires either to begin blogs or to re-dedicate ourselves to writing our blogs.  I fall somewhere in between (having just enough blogging experience to be dangerous!)  Kathy Perret (@KathyPerret) offered to host us in a Google Hangout last Sunday to discuss blogging.  Kathy, Julie Bauer (@jbteachr), and I met to discuss topics ranging from hosting options to writing topics.  Julie actually hadn’t blogged before, but that evening she completed her first blog entry at her brand new site http://julieebauer.com.  Julie is doing a great job, and I can already hear her voice coming through loud and clear (something I personally struggle to find).  Kathy was so open to share what has helped her too, emphasizing the importance of a blogging schedule, writing ideas in drafts for later development, and tweeting blog posts to those who might be interested in reading them. I took copious notes from our conversation, and I am steadily implementing the strategies.


As I continue growing, I will document my journey (along with other work) here.  Please join me (@kennycmckee), and leave a comment below about where I can follow you on your digital leadership journey too. Communicating our successes, struggles, perspectives, and projects is how we grow!

How QR Codes Support Teaching and Learning

A QR (Quick Response) code is a special type of barcode than can hold more information than traditional UPC barcodes. With a QR code reader app, information can be retrieved and displayed quickly using the camera on a smartphone or a tablet device. Most QR readers can also create QR codes. These barcodes can connect to web URL’s, text documents, e-mail addresses, and other information.

Information Stations

Are there certain areas of your space where it would be convenient for students to regularly access information? Consider creating QR codes that allow students to easily retrieve important information. For example, in a weight training class, a teacher could post QR codes at each piece of exercise equipment. The featured poster links to videos that show proper form for chest exercises.


Differentiated Skills Groups Oftentimes, we need to differentiate instruction for varying student needs, but we are unsure of how to accomplish the task. QR codes can be linked to different online tasks that develop students’ skills. Teachers can assign students to scan a particular QR code, or students can self-assess and choose for themselves. The codes pictured were created after students had completed writing drafts. The teacher identified three areas for different groups of students to develop: parallel structure, subject-verb agreement, and correct use of apostrophes.  The QR codes link to related activities at chompchomp.com.


Promoting Self-Selected Reading Connecting students with books that meet their interests is a vital for creating motivated independent readers. Online book trailers are an engaging way to convey information about books in the 21st century. Create a display of books with QR codes to initiate a visual “booktalk” that students can access on demand. The photo below is a book display created by Samantha Gallman (@hav2laugh), the media coordinator in one of the schools I serve.


Group “Scavenger Hunts” QR codes are a great tool for classroom scavenger hunts. First, teachers can determine the types of information they want students to explore. Then, they can search for websites, videos, maps, and documents that support students learning the information. The pictured scavenger hunt had earth and environmental science students explore the effects of pollution in regards to ocean acidification, the greenhouse effect, and other aspects of climate change.


Reading Scaffolds Teachers can create reading scaffolds for students with QR codes.  For example, QR codes can be attached to a text’s margins. When 9th grade students read “The Sniper,” I created QR codes that linked to background information, pictures, and YouTube videos that would support and enrich their reading experience.


Create Your Own QR Reader and Qrafter are free QR Code apps that can create QR codes. You can also create your own QR codes on your desktop or laptop using The QR Code Generator. Please use the comments section below to share ideas about how you are using QR codes to support learning in your schools.

Quizlet Engages Students in Vocabulary Learning

Quizlet Engages Students in Vocabulary Learning Quizlet is a free website providing learning tools for students, including flashcards, study activities, and games. All of the material is user-generated.  Students enjoy studying terms with Quizlet because of its interactive nature.  Quizlet even has an app so students can easily (and for many teens, discreetly!) study vocabulary!

I recently created two sets of terms for sophomore English language arts students.  If you have never used Quizlet before, check out these links to get an idea of how Quizlet works.  Feel free to use them if you would like.

English I and II Common Core Literary Terms 

English I and II Common Core Academic Language

Quizlet can become one tool for students to learn new vocabulary.  Based upon the work of Robert J. Marzano and Deborah J. Pickering in Building Academic Vocabulary, games are a vital part of their six-step process of learning vocabulary.  Quizlet on its own will not solve all of your vocabulary problems, but it will powerfully enhance your classroom instruction.

Want to begin?  I have compiled some information to help you navigate Quizlet if it is new for you.

Creating an Account

Creating an account on Quizlet is relatively simple, but it is not always necessary.  One can click “Create a Set” on the top bar of the screen to make a set of terms to study.  The set will be searchable on Quizlet, or you could save the weblink of the card set to get back to it it later.  However, the advantage of having your own account is that you can find all of the card sets you have created easily.

To create a free account, simply click on “Sign Up” in the upper right hand bar on the website.  You will need to enter your birthdate, a username, and a password.  You will also need to check the box that says that you agree to the terms of service.  Once you have an account created, you can simply click on “Log In” in the upper righthand corner of the site to enter your username and password.

Creating a Set of Vocabulary Terms

Simply click “Create a Set” on the top bar of the website.  You will be prompted to enter a title and description for your set of terms.  Select a language for terms and definitions (these may be different if you are a world language teacher).

Quizlet has a new “auto-define” feature, which can save you a lot of time. When you enter a word, Quizlet will offer you some suggestions for definitions.  You may choose to select one of the auto-define selections or enter your own definition.

To add words to your list, simply click the “+” at the bottom of the text boxes.

Using the Vocabulary Sets

Students can retrieve terms easily if you place a link to your set on your teacher website or other webpage.  Once they have found the set, they can study using (1) Flashcards, (2) Learn, (3) Speller, (4) Test, (5) Scatter or (6) Space Race.

Creating a Class

Another option is to create a class.  Click “Join or Create a Class” in the lefthand column.  Enter the name of your class.  Then you can enter the name of your school.  You may add your card sets into the class.  Students can be invited into your class two ways.  First, you can send an invitation through the student e-mail.  If you choose this method, students will need to be able to access their school e-mail accounts.  Second, you can post an invitation link.  This link can be embedded on your teacher website or another web page.

Many educators have found Quizlet to be an amazing tool for enhancing vocabulary learning.  If you’re new to Quizlet, or if you haven’t used it in a while, I highly recommend checking it out.