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Is a Chromebook a Good Replacement for a Laptop?

Posted by Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, July 22, 2014
in The Future of Technology
A Chromebook does have some advantages when it comes to purchasing a portable device, but does it have enough flexibility to meet your computing needs without compromise? The key characteristics that make the Chromebook an appealing alternative are: It’s inexpensive; It’s lightweight; It powers up in seconds; It has a long better life; and It comes with Google-based applications. A Chromebook does have some limitations, though—forcing users to sacrifice functionality or opt for a more-expensive Windows- or Mac-based laptop. Among the Chromebook’s limitations: It doesn’t run applications that were not intended to be web-based; The choices of models are limited; and It cannot connect to a printer. If you are going to use the device only for web-based applications such as email and online word processing and spreadsheets, then a Chromebook may be a good option for you. If you need more from your device, then a traditional laptop is probably your best option because it gives you greater flexibility and allows you to perform a wider range of computing tasks....
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Surface Pro 3: Is It the Best Classroom Tablet?

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, July 07, 2014
in New & Emerging Technology
Betteridge's law of headlines states that the answer to the above question should be no, but the truth is much more complex. Microsoft has done a remarkable job with their latest iteration in the Surface line, and the Surface Pro 3 is close to perfect, which makes the device's shortcomings stand out and frustrate even more than they probably should. The Surface Pro 3 could be the best classroom tablet on the market, but whether or not it will be remains to be seen. The Case For the Surface Pro 3 There is no better tablet that runs a full version of Windows than the Surface Pro 3. It is the thinnest, lightest, most powerful, and longest-lasting tablet available that can also run desktop applications. This presents a plethora of exciting options in the classroom, especially when considering the Surface Pro 3 also has a touchscreen and pen. The combination of a touchscreen, pen, and "the cloud" make it possible to do some amazing things. Think about the following situation, a student submits an essay. The old methodology would be for the student to write the essay, print it, hand it in, and wait at least a day for the...
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Mirroring Your iPad to Your PC

Posted by Valerie Ramp
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
in Web 2.0 Tools for Learning
A few weeks ago, I was approached by a Kindergarten teacher who needed to present to the entire faculty a form she had created on her iPad. But she couldn’t access the form on her PC, which was the device connected to the projector. She came to me in a panic, expecting that she would have to somehow have to show her very small iPad screen to the very large group. I’m sure there are other teachers who have had this problem--so I’m sharing the solution I found: iTools. iTools allows you to mirror your iPad to your PC through a USB cable and to display the screen through a projector in real time. Because the iPad is tethered to the computer via the USB cable, you do not have to deal with the headache of firewalls that school districts may have up to protect their wireless network against devices such as iPads and other tablets connecting to their computers. While the iPad is connected to the computer through iTools, anything you do in the iPad is shown on the projector. While iTool is the only free option for mirroring your iPad to your PC, there are other methods. Technology blogger...
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Preparing students for college – Could EdReady be the answer?

Posted by Ben Jacobs
Ben Jacobs
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, June 10, 2014
in Student Performance
As an educator, I’ve always felt that one of my largest goals is to prepare students for what they want to accomplish next—from moving up to the next grade to going to college to entering the workforce. After teaching in middle grades and secondary school, I was an adjunct instructor at a technical college, teaching remedial English to students who had not passed the compass exam or who had not done well enough in high school to be exempt from the class. The compass exam is an entry level exam that all students must either pass or exempt with SAT or ACT scores. Unfortunately, these classes cost the students money but didn’t count toward their GPA or college degree—so I wondered if there were a way to give them the content they needed without the expense. That’s when I found EdReady. Created by The NROC Project, a national nonprofit that provides free academic content, EdReady . covers high school standards and concepts and how they apply to what is needed to be successful as a college freshman. It is hard for teachers to justify teaching students college concepts when their own instructional time is being cut short and every moment is...
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“Schools without Walls”

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, May 20, 2014
in Curriculum
A recent CNN article featured a private school in Atlanta that is finding ways to knock down classroom walls. The Galloway School took its entire student body to the High Museum of Art, where kids spent the day using the art and the building itself to explore math, science, and other academic subjects. This extraordinary field trip is a great example of interdisciplinary teaching and learning—and it challenges our notions of conventional education. As I read the story, which I found really profound, I started thinking about how technology offers the same opportunity. It can push boundaries, moving teachers and students beyond classroom walls. This brought to mind two apps, in particular, that could help create a school without walls: Aurasma and Explain Everything. Aurasma is an augmented reality app that allows a teacher to “tag” an image, object, or location. When a student, using the Aurasma app on a mobile device, views the object on the device, it is brought to life with interactive digital content in the form of videos, animations, and 3D scenes—allowing students to reach a deeper level of interactivity with the world around them. This app is ideal for outside-of-the-classroom learning because it allows students to...
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Finding Effective Ways to Integrate Technology within the Classroom

Posted by Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, May 13, 2014
in Curriculum
Finding the right implementation is key and the approach can make the difference of success.  Below are effective means on getting integration off to a winning start. 1. Plan ahead: There has to be a comprehensive strategy in place to implement technology into the classroom with a consistent technique throughout the district.  The teachers need to feel comfortable with the implementation, so having them involved in all planning stages is critical. Using a "three T's approach" of how teaching can be improved, what technology will be used, and how time will be used more efficiently is a good idea to keep in mind when formulating a strategy. 2. Try something new: Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.  If the strategy has been well thought out, then implementation will be the testing stage and adjustments can be made in a certain period of time. 3. Become an educational designer: The changing of your teaching role can make technology integration seamless.  The willingness to allow technology to supplement the learning of your students can be a big benefit to students that have varying learning styles.  The use of technology has the potential to reach students that favor any...
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Save Thousands with TiVo

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, May 05, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
A Disclaimer This blog deviates from my typical focus on how technology can directly affect student achievement in the classroom. Instead, the focus here is on saving money, which can indirectly affect student achievement by freeing up funds for teachers to use to their students' advantage. If all 7.2 million teachers in the United States take my suggestion and spent only a quarter of what they will save in the classroom, it would add $2.16 billion annually to the education of America's youth. A Big Problem My wife and I have a one-year-old son, whom we love, but that little dude is expensive. According to CNN Money, we will spend almost a quarter-of-a-million dollars before our son turns 18. Then we'll want to pay for college, which could cost an additional quarter-of-a-million dollars or more. A half-million dollars is a lot of money, and we want our little guy to have at least one more sibling. A million dollars or more... that is a BIG PROBLEM! A Tiny Fix Two months ago I took a hard look at my budget to see where I could cut fixed costs without compromising the (pretty sweet) quality of my life. The one area...
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How Are School Districts Assessing Technology Integration?

Posted by Matt Ernst
Matt Ernst
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Thursday, April 24, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
As the school year heads toward the finish line, it’s a good time to reflect on the success of your technology integration efforts. It’s great to have laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, SMART Boards, and endless apps. But how well do teachers know how to use the technology, and is it making an impact on students? There are several ways for school administrators to gather data that will help answer these questions—but I will focus on three that I think are the most effective. 1. Traditional polling. Just ask the teachers for feedback. Survey them with direct questions about what kind of professional development they’ve had and what they’ve learned about particular hardware and software. Ask them how they’ve used technology in their lessons plans and how students performed as a result. Based on the results, districts can determine areas of strength as well as identify opportunities for further training during in-service days and continuing education over the summer. 2. Online assessment. Learning.com has a professional development module called WayFind, which tests teachers’ proficiency with such 21st skills as technology operations, digital citizenship, and the ability to design digital learning experiences. WayFind gives teachers a score, which—like polling—can identify strengths as well as the...
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Education Innovation: Spotlight on New Tools for the Classroom

Posted by Valerie Ramp
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, March 24, 2014
in New & Emerging Technology
Let’s face it: There are always new trends for teachers and school administrators to try when introducing learning in the classroom. The question you inevitably face is, “Which way do I go when I want to try something new but don’t have a lot of time to waste looking for something that only might be good for my students?” In this age of performance-based state testing, teachers and administrators need 21st century teaching tools that will promote learning for every child. There are several tools gaining popularity this year that are worth a teacher’s time and energy: http://edtechreview.com/ EdTechReview provides information about and reviews of technology you can purchase for your school. It is basically a “Consumer Reports” for educational technology. It is unbiased and fully searchable, and it offers suggestions and options if you are just searching for ideas. http://gamedesk.org/platforms/educade/ GameDesk offers free, searchable lesson plans (by subject, grade level, or technology type) as well as hundreds of games, apps, and hands-on activities. All lesson plans and activities are aligned with Common Core and Next Generation standards. https://www.knowmia.com/ Knowmia is a web site as well as an iPad app. As an app, it is a recording tool for teachers. Teachers...
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E-textbooks bring content to life for students

Posted by Matt Ernst
Matt Ernst
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Thursday, March 13, 2014
in New & Emerging Technology
Despite the growing number of schools putting tech dollars into e-textbooks, some publishing companies and educators are resisting the move toward digital publishing. The “Big Three” publishers—London-based Pearson, New York City-based McGraw-Hill Education, and Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—suggest they're taking the “bit” approach, digitizing “bits” of their textbooks and releasing them slowly to the education community. And some educators believe digital textbooks raise real health concerns: strained eyes, sleep deprivation, or even cancer. But more research is needed to determine the health consequences of e-reading.   Meantime, I think e-textbooks have several benefits:   Digital textbooks are certainly lighter than the 40 pounds of paper and binding that many students carry in their backpacks. (See the teen health section on kidshealth.org for information on the risk of spine injury from improper bookbag strap use.) It’s more cost-effective to push content updates and corrections to e-textbooks than it is to print a new edition. E-textbooks can be highly interactive, with online quizzes, hyperlinks to other books and websites, flash video, and instant references like Google or Dictionary.com that open mini windows with results and defininitions. Some versions even allow the reader to “highlight”  a passage with the swipe of finger, no...
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Technology Integration Decoded: Step 1: Substitution

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, March 03, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
From smartphones to Google Glass, technology is becoming an increasingly integral aspect of everyday life. The world is literally at our fingertips, and it can be difficult to unplug. What if instead of unplugging, though, we learned to “plug in” more effectively? In education, this is called technology integration, and it can become an educator’s greatest asset—a way to tap a pool of possibilities that engage students in a real and meaningful way. Educators can be overwhelmed by such concepts as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and “flipped classrooms,” thinking they have to revamp their lessons all at once in order to integrate technology. This is not true. Integration can happen over time. The first step is to do some research—and there are plenty of online resources to help educators become comfortable with tech integration. My first recommendation is edudemic.com. This web site was designed with teachers in mind and provides helpful integration how to’s, as well as educational technology thought leadership from well-known industry experts. A great tool is ExitTicket.org. ExitTicket measures student success against daily learning goals. A teacher with four classes of 25-30 students each will have more than 100 students to track and measure.  ExitTickets allows you...
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IPEVO's Interactive Whiteboard is a Real Deal

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Thursday, January 30, 2014
in New & Emerging Technology
IPEVO's Interactive Whiteboard IS-01 is the most impressive piece of technology I saw at this week's Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) in Columbus. Essentially, it is a "SMART Board" for $149. How is that possible when SMART Boards can cost 10 times as much or more? Well, think of it this way: Both a Kia and a Cadillac can get you somewhere. The Kia is more affordable, but it will not provide all the luxury and convenience of a Cadillac. The IS-01 is the Kia of interactive whiteboards. It works, but don't expect it to be as nice as a SMART Board. It isn't, but what it is is a real deal and worthy of your consideration. A little side note, I taught high school Language Arts for seven years in poor, urban areas of Chicago and Cincinnati. I never had an interactive white board, but I always had a projector. I expect there are many, many teachers in similar circumstances. I eventually bought a Wacom tablet and Sketchbook Pro so that I could use my projector to show hand written material in class. I wrote Venn Diagrams, charts, definitions, etc., but it was always at my desk. Experienced educators know...
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Recent Comments Show all comments
  • Dan Molloy
    Dan Molloy says #
    I look forward to testing this product in Hamilton and sharing our findings with the rest of our schools. Nicely done!
  • Michael Hosford
    Michael Hosford says #
    Thank you for highlighting this form of technology. The whiteboard type products have been widely installed over the past few year...

Download great lessons without breaking the bank

Posted by Valerie Ramp
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, December 02, 2013
in K-12 General Interest
If you’re a teacher, you’ve been there: You are preparing to be observed and you need a fabulous lesson lesson to “wow” your administrator. You rack your brain, scour your resource books, search the Internet, and end up spending far too long preparing a lesson, feeling chained to your computer.   Suddenly, you see a light on the horizon: TeachersPayTeachers, a popular web site where teachers can buy and sell lessons and resources—including whole units, clip art, centers, activities, worksheets, and other printables (always in an adorable font). While this site might unchain you from your computer, it also might relieve you of quite a bit of cash. While some items are free, others can cost $20 or more. Here’s an alternative: BetterLesson. For the low, low cost of free—and your email address and school name—you can download material from more than 600,000 resources posted by excellent teachers across the country. The site is searchable by subject matter, grade level, and educator. You can even upload your own curriculum and make comments on lessons you find. Each lesson also lists the Common Core Standards it addresses, as well as the author’s name and school. BetterLesson allows teachers to exchange ideas freely...
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To Bring Your Own Device—Or Not

Posted by Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Thursday, October 24, 2013
in The Future of Technology
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program at Hamilton High School officially launched this week. And like any new initiative, it comes with advantages and disadvantages. BYOD allows students to use their own phones, tablets, or laptops in class. Typically, schools implement BYOD because they believe it will increase student engagement and save the schools money because they won’t have to buy a device for every student; in theory, then, they can then spend that money on other things. These are both legitimate reasons for bringing technology into a school this way. Still, BYOD needs to be looked at more closely. Among the potential disadvantages: Many times, students are hearing material for the first time and need to focus on the content, and devices can become more of a distraction than a learning enhancement. BYOD could bring unnecessary attention to socioeconomic differences in a district. Not every student comes from a family that can afford to buy a device—or at least the latest device. And not every student will have the means to upgrade the device when necessary. When students are using a device that they own, they have the freedom to make modifications to the device, which could affect how...
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Chromecast in the Classroom: C+ Now... A+ Later?

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, October 14, 2013
in New & Emerging Technology
Google's Chromecast has the potential to improve how students can research, create, and publish in the classroom.  Indeed, right now it has the ability to do these things, but it also has some significant drawbacks that need to be considered.  I'll discuss those drawbacks later, but for now let's look at what is Chromecast and consider what makes Chromecast awesome for the classroom. What is Chromecast? Chromecast is a small HDMI dongle that plugs into your TV/Projector.  It has the capability to stream content from the internet to the display it is connected to and can be controlled by your smartphone, tablet, or PC.  Anything you can see in your Chrome browser can also be seen on your Chromecast connected TV/Projector.  Learn more here. What makes Chromecast awesome in the classroom? One word - collaboration.  Google's Chromecast makes it easier than ever to work with other people throughout the development process.  Right now, my wife is reading what I'm typing for this blog on our TV, and she is pretty good at catching my mistakes.  It's pretty cool to see what I type on my laptop update in near real time on my TV; there is a slight delay of...
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Recent Comments Show all comments
  • Guest2
    Guest2 says #
    I wonder if there would be a method that the instructor would have to hand off control. So that if a student projected something i...
  • Matt Ernst
    Matt Ernst says #
    Great blog article, Bob. Bought my personal chromecast when available. My family loves it. The classroom uses haven`t even scrat...
  • Michael Hosford
    Michael Hosford says #
    Thank you for creating this helpful blog. It is amazing the new forms of technology that continue to be created that can have such...

VARtek Blog Contributors

Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
Noah Webster
Classroom Technology Coach
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
Jeff Goeke
Manager - Marketing
Mark Benn
Technology Integration Coach
Dan Molloy
Technical Services Manager
Joseph Drayer
Director of Business Development

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