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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 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,...
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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 Presents to OSBA Conference

Posted by Heather Martin
Heather Martin
Strategic Communications Coordinator
User is currently offline
on Monday, November 10, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
Download our presentation to the Ohio School Board Association's annual conference. ...
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NaNoWriMo in the Classroom

Posted by Ben Jacobs
Ben Jacobs
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Monday, October 27, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
Most authors spend years researching, writing, and revising their novels. Not during NaNoWriMo. Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo challenges writers to churn out at least 50,000 words in 30 days, putting their time where their mouths are to make progress on that novel they are always talking up at parties and family gatherings. I, myself, have participated in NaNoWriMo (which starts November 1) for the last seven years. Last year I completed 52,494 words of my novel. Was it a great work of literature? Probably not. But the goal of the exercise is to encourage writers to translate their ideas into actual stories—which makes it a perfect tool for the classroom. I taught middle school language arts for five years, and I used NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program every year as a way to get my students to practice writing and storytelling. The Young Writer’s Program allows teachers to set their own word count targets and allows students to see each other’s work and track their progress. I knew there was no way my eighth graders could pump out 50,000 words in a month, so I asked them to shoot for 5,000 words, 10,000 words, or 15,000 words. Anyone who...
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Two Terrific Apps for Teachers

Posted by Bob Buck
Bob Buck
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
There are two free apps that every teacher with a smartphone should get today: Photomath and Plickers. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photomath is able to provide answers to complex math equations just by scanning the equation with a smartphone camera. It is currently available only for Apple and Windows devices, but an Android version is expected in 2015. Photomath is able to break down each step taken in an equation to derive the correct answer, which means students can quickly see how to solve tricky math problems. This means students have an additional avenue to see how equations are solved, but students also have an additional way to cheat on their homework. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Plickers is the best free formative assessment tool for an entire classroom I have ever seen. Plickers works because it engages the entire class with individual student codes that the teacher can quickly scan with a smartphone app. The way a student holds his or her paper will register the student's response of either A, B, C, or D. A teacher can scan an entire classroom in less than ten seconds from the front of the room with the app and the results will show up instantly for the class to see...
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IPEVO Document Cameras: A Smart Solution at a Fraction of the Price

Posted by Valerie Ramp
Valerie Ramp
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, September 08, 2014
in New & Emerging Technology
For several years now, teachers have been able to pull away from the “good old days” of the classic, light bulb-powered overhead projector (complete with transparencies and those glorious markers!) that you and I grew up with. Now, as long as school budgets hold up, classrooms are now blessed with the document camera: digital, displayed in full color, and, as a bonus, no more marker all over the hand from erasing! But, with great technology, comes a great price tag...right? Looking at the most popular classroom brands, schools are going to pay at least $350 for a decent document camera. In the days of tight school budgets, that is not the best news. However, IPEVO has decided to move into a completely different direction and provide innovative products that actually save educators money. Their standard document camera, the Point 2 View USB Document Camera, not only will provide real-time video capture for documents in the classroom, but the head of the camera actually can be removed off of the stand for teachers or students to take still pictures of objects with the included snapshot key! All of this for $69! Besides the everyday use of a normal document camera, there are...
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Libraries Have Chance to Rekindle Interest in Reading

Posted by Brendan Roy
Brendan Roy
Classroom Technology Coach (CTC)
User is currently offline
on Monday, August 11, 2014
in K-12 General Interest
“Reading is so 18th Century.” These words—spoken by my youngest brother, who is entering his senior year of high school—are a little troubling to me, an avid reader who spends a lot of money on books. But as an educator, I hear opportunity in his words—opportunity to help young people see the value in reading while acknowledging the shift in how they consume information. While not every K-12 student sees reading books for pleasure, or as a part of a school assignment, as a Herculean task, educators must take the overall growing disinterest in books into account when creating learning environments. This is particularly important for school libraries, public libraries, and Media Specialists. A recent CNN article profiled the Nashville Public Library’s attempt to embrace today’s digital natives by incorporating aspects that attract them—such as gaming consoles, workshops on computer programs, and other activities that today’s kids enjoy. What the Nashville Public Library is reflecting is a cultural shift in which libraries are becoming “active learning centers” for students. With Common Core standards asking students and teachers to become more interdisciplinary and educational technology becoming increasingly accessible, this is a paradigm shift that must be embraced by school libraries, as well....
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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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VARtek Blog Contributors

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
Jeff Goeke
Manager - Marketing

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