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DuoLingo: The New Answer for ESL Learners?

Posted by Valerie Ramp
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, May 11, 2015
in Curriculum
As more and more students come into American classrooms speaking a native language other than English, teachers are faced with the task of overcoming language barriers while teaching core subjects. While there are many excellent English language instruction software programs available, many cost much more than tight school budgets can afford. Last year, a Pittsburgh-based startup launched an alternative, cloud-based language program called DuoLingo. It’s free and, according to a study by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina, it’s highly effective. The research concluded that an average of 34 hours of DuoLingo instruction is equivalent to a full semester of university language education. It has won numerous awards, including Google’s Best of the Best in 2013 and 2014, iPhone App of the year in 2013, and TechCrunch’s Best Education Startup in 2014. Teachers’ comments about DuoLingo speak volumes. They say they appreciate everything from the dashboard that tracks students’ progress to the educator’s forum that allows them to exchange ideas. According to one comment on their Twitter Wall of Love, DuoLingo is an  “app changing the way we learn languages and fixing education through tech.”              ...
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“Apple Education: iBooks Author”

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Friday, May 01, 2015
in Classroom Hints
Have you ever wished that you could find the perfect textbook? A book that engages students, a book they can understand, find relevant, interact with, and not be overwhelmed by? That’s the holy grail. Well, the grail is within your grasp if you use Apple’s iBooks Author, a free application that allows teachers to create interactive content for the classroom. With this tool, which includes a tutorial for beginners, teachers can create iBooks from scratch or augment existing material. In many ways, the app works like Microsoft Word or Publisher—so it will feel familiar to most users. After selecting a template that best fits the theme of your iBook, you can simply add information by copying and pasting from other documents or typing in new information. You can also include videos, links to websites, manipulatives (maps, rotatable 3D images, and more), and built-in assessment questions to enrich the information and help students make connections necessary for understanding. What makes this such an effective tool is the variety of ways the same information can be presented, ensuring that diverse learning needs are met. Students can use this tool, too—for writing reports and research papers, for example. And they can augment their content...
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Aurasma: Taking Augmented Reality into the Classroom

Posted by Chuck Samek
Chuck Samek
Chuck Samek has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, April 20, 2015
in K-12 General Interest
By now, most of us have heard of and probably scanned a QR code with our smartphone. Companies use QR codes to connect consumers to websites and product promotions. Teachers use them to give students easy ways to gather information and see homework assignments. It’s pretty neat to think that so much data can be crammed into a bunch of black ink in the shape of a box. This idea of scanning to connect to information is reaching a whole new level through the increasingly popular application “Aurasma.” Aurasma allows users to create augmented reality versions—Auras—of standard images and objects. For example, with Aurasma’s viewfinder (which uses the camera function on a smartphone or tablet) students could focus on an image of a world map that has been turned into an Aura. Interactive content will appear on their device screens, layered on top of the map image. Students can then click and swipe to access other pictures, text, audio, or video that have been linked to the image, or Aura. Use the viewfinder in your Aurasma app to see what pops up when you focus on the image below: Pretty cool right? It’s only the tip of what is possible! And...
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Tech to Take Home

Posted by Colin Milne
Colin Milne
Colin Milne has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, April 20, 2015
in K-12 General Interest
Does learning stop once a student steps onto the school bus at the end of the day? Answers vary, of course; but let’s assume that most parents would like to be involved in their children’s learning and would like to be connected to lessons and activities that happen during the school day. This is where online tools such as BrainPOP come in. BrainPOP is an online subscription-based service that students can access from any Internet-capable computer, tablet, or smart phone. Students can log in from home and continue activities they began at school—watching educational videos, taking quizzes, and playing learning games.   This tool is still evolving; so we will undoubtedly see many new things coming from BrainPOP, but one of the most recent advances is the ability to individually customize student learning. Teachers can track their students’ progress and create quizzes tailored specifically to individuals or groups of students and can restrict student access to specific content. For example if the unit covered in class revolves around fractions in math, the teacher could restrict BrainPOP access to display only content relating to that unit. Students can watch the videos over and over, play the games more than once, and take...
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Classroom HDTV Streaming

Posted by Joel Tinsley
Joel Tinsley
Joel Tinsley has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, April 14, 2015
in New & Emerging Technology
Technology is constantly changing in ways that are impossible to predict. A decade ago, if you wanted some form of interactive presentation, the obvious choice would be the SMART Board, or similar product. The adoption of this technology in the classroom allowed for a much more interactive and technology-driven learning experience. However, in the intervening years, the cost of buying and maintaining the equipment has made educators look for a more low-cost alternative. Enter low-cost HDTVs. With a dramatically lower cost (~$400) compared to a similar-sized SMART Board and projector (~$2,000), cash-strapped districts are increasingly seeing the appeal of replacing their aging equipment with large, flatscreen HDTVs, which can be replaced for an increasingly lower cost. Of course, the issue of how to keep the classroom experience interactive remains. However, with the advent of inexpensive streaming devices, such as Chromecast and AppleTV, and the increasingly wide adoption of mobile devices, such as tablets and laptops, this has presented several new ways of bringing interactive learning to the classroom. One of the most ubiquitous streaming products in the past year has been the Chromecast. This small device has brought effortless streaming and screen mirroring capabilities into many households, as well as...
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Smaller... Stronger, Faster?

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, April 13, 2015
in New & Emerging Technology
Computers are getting smaller, stronger, and faster than ever before, which presents new and exciting opportunities for large-scale technology deployments, especially at school districts. Intel's Next Unit of Computing, or NUC, is about the size of a hockey puck yet more powerful than most business desktops, and Google's Chromebit redefines inexpensive access to basic computing, building the computer into a stick not much larger than a pack of gum. The future is a marvelous road of possibility, and it is worth our time to explore two of the brightest headlamps hurtling our way. The Intel NUC is a powerful and adaptable platform for small, lightweight performance. It is a DIY (do-it-yourself) kit, which means it does not come with a hard drive or RAM (Random Access Memory). The potential drawback of missing system components is also perhaps the NUC's best feature, as the platform is ideal for simple, end-user modifications. The cost for components, especially SSDs (Solid State Drives), the super fast hard drive, can be prohibitive. It might make sense to use a $100 SSD now like the Intel 530 Series with the knowledge that prices will come down and capacity will go up in the not-too-distant future. Indeed,...
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Personal Learning Networks

Posted by Mark Benn
Mark Benn
Technology Integration Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, March 16, 2015
in K-12 General Interest
Is your personal learning network working? Have you started one, or do you feel you don’t have time? If you have one, have you expanded it to a point that you are learning and sharing with others what you learn on a day-to-day basis? Let’s look at what personal networking is all about. Networking comes from connecting and following others on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and many others. I have two Facebook accounts: One is for personal connections and the other one is for professional networking. On my professional Facebook page, I connect to people in my profession as an educator and instructional technologist. On this account I can post videos and blogs that I find on the Internet dealing with my profession. My friends are doing the same things. There is always so much to learn when you have many eyes scouring the Internet for news about educational change. Also, as individualized learning keeps growing, we need to teach our students how to build their own learning networks. We need to show them that learning can be fun by connecting to things that are of interest to them. The Internet opens the world to everyone. Watch this...
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“Big Hero” Tech Tool of Today’s Classroom”

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, March 03, 2015
in New & Emerging Technology
Those of you with children (or those who are children at heart) most likely have seen one of Disney’s latest animated features, “Big Hero 6.” The main character, Hero, lives in a world where he has access to an array of technology. And one of the coolest tools he gets to use is a 3D printer, which allows him to make the objects he dreams up. My middle school self was so envious. Because 3D printers, as you know, actually exist now and are making their way into schools and are even available for consumer purchase. When I was in middle school, my technology class was limited by the tools, and materials, available to us. In the ubiquitous “egg drop” project—which science students have been doing for decades—we had to design and construct a frame or structure that hold and protect an egg from the impact of a 10-foot drop.  We didn’t have 3D printers. We used Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and pipe cleaners. (FYI, my egg did not survive.)   This Edudemic article explains the emergence and advantages of 3D printers or pens in the classroom. And while the printers are still quite expensive, there is a 3D pen called...
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Complementary Technology: Communication tools

Posted by Colin Milne
Colin Milne
Colin Milne has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Monday, February 23, 2015
in K-12 General Interest
For too long the two worlds of home and school have been driven apart, each sphere beginning to be seen as completely separate from the other.  When it comes to educating our children it is crucial for all of the stakeholders (teachers and parents) to work together to bridge the gap.  Through the use of technology we can begin to bring everyone together, working towards the same goal of educating our children.  This is where the realm of complementary technology comes into play, especially when it comes to communication. Communication between parent and teacher is critical, regardless of the direct involvement of the parent in school activities.  Communication helps ensure that both the school and home environments are able to meet the unique needs of each student, and therefore support the child’s overall development.  Websites can be a useful tool as a first step in this journey of communication.  Teacher-created websites allow them to share what is happening in the classroom on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis.  Platforms provided by Google Sites, http://www.wix.com/, or http://www.weebly.com/ are some such systems that can allow this communication to occur. Email is obviously another important tool for communication, and is a tool that...
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A Look to the Future

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, February 16, 2015
in New & Emerging Technology
In response to a parliamentary question, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once declared, "It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see." Looking ahead there is a new technology that will further extend what can be seen in the classroom, and it is the Microsoft HoloLens. The Microsoft HoloLens lets you see holographic images, called holograms, projected over real world environments. In essence, it lets you see something that is not there. Furthermore, the HoloLens will let you interact with that something that is not there. The impact this could have in the classroom is enormous. It is not outside the realm of possibility that within the next five years a classroom of students could be led by a holographic teacher. Even more likely is rapid advancement in math and science as labs are performed virtually in holographic space. Chemistry labs today are inherently dangerous and expensive. However, labs could soon be performed in a virtual space without fear of explosions. Indeed, teachers could and should encourage explosions so that students can see what happens when dangerous chemicals are mixed together. Go ahead and blow up the lab. The damage will be limited to the 1's...
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Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education: An Innovative New Classroom Tablet

Posted by Valerie Ramp
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, February 09, 2015
in New & Emerging Technology
For many years now, the competition for tablets in the classroom has been fierce. While the Apple iPad has led the pack with its easy-to-use interface and its plethora of apps. However, there is a new game in town: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education. With a rugged case included in the purchase and easy-to-navigate education device management console via Google Play for Education (sold separately for approximately $30 per device), this tablet is ideal for teachers and young learners. Within minutes of opening up the box, the teacher or administrator controlling the classroom tablets can configure the “administrator” tablet with the WiFi settings and download the Android Device Enrollment App (available from Google Play for Education). From there, the student tablets are configured by turning them on and “bumping” them to the administrator tablet. Using Samsung’s Near Field Communication (NFC), the WiFi settings are passed to the student tablet in seconds without a need to configure each one. Once each student tablet is signed in with an email address, the teacher logs in to Google Play for Education and can download free apps or purchase paid apps. In order to send the apps to the student tablets, the teacher just...
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Make BYOD Meaningful with Nearpod

Posted by Chuck Samek
Chuck Samek
Chuck Samek has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Monday, February 09, 2015
in New & Emerging Technology
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and 1:1 programs are becoming widely accepted across the country as ways to turn our classrooms into 21st Century learning environments. Chromebooks, iPads, Kindles, and many other devices are all being used in the classroom, but there is the pesky little problem of crossing platforms among different devices. It is a battle that exists—especially in BYOD programs where teachers want to present material using a certain application—but it doesn't exist for a specific type of device. This might cause some frustration on the part of the teachers who want to be innovative, but are always coming up on road blocks, but there is a shining star presentation app that will work with nearly any device: Nearpod.   Nearpod takes lesson and content presentation to the next level and is available via the Apple App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, and even on the web with any browser, making this an application that anyone, anywhere, can use. Not only does this app work across multiple platforms, but it is free to set up an account and offers so much more than PowerPoint.   With Nearpod you can create or download engaging lessons that students will have access...
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Tablets and QR Codes Improve Organization for All Students

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, January 13, 2015
in Classroom Hints
It’s not a secret that technology is changing the learning game for students with disabilities. From touch screens that allow those with limited motor skills to access information more easily to communication apps that aid students with speech or hearing difficulties, devices such as iPads can “reduce frustration, build confidence, and, well, just work in teaching students the skills they need to learn to thrive,” says a recent article on Edudemic.com. As I was reading, though, it occurred to me that all students come to class with some kind of challenge--one of the most common being lack of organization. As an educator and instructional technologist, I believe personal computing devices can minimize this obstacle, by reducing the amount of paper students have to manage. The key to using a portable device, like an iPad, to create a paperless classroom (and backpack) is the QR code. Just attach a PDF of a worksheet, informational sheet, or PowerPoint presentation to the code and students can scan it with their device and have a virtually loss-proof copy. Before you can implement the QR code solution, though, you need to confirm that you have a place online to store the PDFs (such as Office365, Google,...
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Chromebook vs. Cheap Laptop: FIGHT!

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, December 08, 2014
in New & Emerging Technology
The HP Stream 11 is a good Chromebook alternative for $200 and perhaps the best cheap laptop available today. The real benefit is that you get a laptop that runs a true operating system, Windows 8.1, instead of a more limited operating system like Chrome OS. In the classroom, the HP Stream 11 can do things a regular Chromebook cannot. This limitation is usually not an issue with Chromebooks, but it can be in certain situations. For instance, earlier this year a teacher asked for my help with a simple circuit construction activity, but the school's Chromebooks could not run the program. I found out the program needed Java to work and Chromebooks do not support Java, much like how Apple's iPad and iPhone do not support Flash. Of course, Windows supports both Java and Flash. The teacher would have been better served in this scenario with cheap Windows laptops. Ars Technica has an excellent review of the HP Stream 11, which delves into the device's benefits and shortcomings. In short, the HP Stream 11 has a great keyboard, average screen, and adequate performance for basic tasks. This is not the device to buy for video editing, advanced graphics, or...
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The Road to Student-Centered Learning

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, November 19, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
Three words resonate profoundly with education professionals; “Student Centered Learning”.  On the heels of those words comes the question that everyone is trying to answer, how do we make schools centers for student-centered learning? Some individuals believe that the answer is Common Core or State Standards. Valid cases can be made for both, Common Core or State Standards only outline the road that success is measured. But what about the “vehicle” needed to travel down that road? That vehicle is the school building. In 2012 the article, “Getting Down to Dollars and Cents: What Do School Districts Spend to Deliver Student-Centered Learning?” outlines elements that every school should consider and aspire to emulate. I believe that these are the most important aspects to consider: Authentic Instruction, Mastery-Based Assessment, and Learning that reaches beyond the school walls. These goals can be achieved in a blended classroom where students use technology as tools for collaboration, discovery, and content creation. I will outline how today’s auto or shop classes can be a prime example of student-centered learning. A teacher presents his students with a car in the shop and outlines the symptoms or elements that are causing the car to be brought in for...
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VARtek Blog Contributors

Joel Tinsley
Joel Tinsley has not set their biography yet
Colin Milne
Colin Milne has not set their biography yet
Chuck Samek
Chuck Samek has not set their biography yet
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
Noah Webster
Classroom Technology Coach
Heather Martin
Strategic Communications Coordinator
Holly Smith
Classroom Technology Coach
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
Nathan Pearce
Classroom Technology Coach
Ben Jacobs
Classroom Technology Coach
Robert Melnick
Classroom Technology Coach
Eric Flowers
Classroom Technology Coach
Matt Ernst
Classroom Technology Coach
Tony Linzmeier
Classroom Technology Coach

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