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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...

5 Unique and Quick Ways to Use Pinterest in the Classroom

Posted by Holly Smith
Holly Smith
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Friday, September 27, 2013
in K-12 General Interest
As technology moves along its accelerated path newer and quicker ways to communicate ideas, pictures, and the ever important social life find and define their way into the web. If you recall MySpace evolved to Facebook, Facebook is slowly evolving into Twitter, and if you combined all social media mania you’d end with Pinterest. Pinterest is a website that involves “pinning” or “repining” items to a board. It’s your modern day global bulletin board. You can make your board private, share it, like it, and you can “re-pin” as many themes, ideas, recipes, songs, and images as your Friday night can handle. Craig Smith, a blogger on expandedramblings, com, cited Pinterest as having 70 million users and the percentage of those users “pinning” and “repining” is 80%. That means a lot of people communicate a lot of things on Pinterest. So why get Pinterest involved in the classroom? As an educator you want the most reliable, relevant, and collaborative content in your classroom – start with Pinterest. There are a plethora of educational blogs that list 100 to 10 ways to use Pinterest in the classroom. I’m offering the bare minimal of 5 unique and quick ways to integrate Pinterest into...
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Electronic Portfolios in the Classroom

Posted by Nathan Pearce
Nathan Pearce
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, September 17, 2013
in Web 2.0 Tools for Learning
The Portfolio When you hear the word portfolio, you might envision a 3-ring binder filled with documents, work samples, tab dividers, and a whole slew of materials that you can physically touch and flip through. If asked to explain why somebody would create a portfolio, you might think to yourself about artists, designers, architects, and business professionals putting them together in order to highlight their skills when looking for a job. These are all valid ideas when it comes to the concept of a portfolio, but have you ever thought about students designing a portfolio of their work and accomplishments in the classroom using technology as a publishing tool? What Exactly is a Portfolio? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portfolio): port-fo-lio (noun) : a hinged cover or flexible case for carrying loose papers, pictures, or pamphlets : a set of pictures (as drawings or photographs) usually bound in book form or loose in a folder : a selection of a student's work (as papers and tests) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance and progress As you can see, the word portfolio can take on different meanings, but in the classroom, we focus on the third...
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  • Michael Hosford
    Michael Hosford says #
    Helpful information and the links are good reference points.

Gaming in the Classroom

Posted by Ben Jacobs
Ben Jacobs
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, September 04, 2013
in K-12 General Interest
I am a gamer—and have been for as long as I can remember. My first console was an Atari (which I still own), and since then, I’ve gone through many other systems. Gaming is practically an everyday activity for me, as it is for more than 90 percent of grade-level students, according to some studies. So instead of seeing gaming as a time-waster or a distraction, educators should leverage its appeal. There are many learning games out there that allow teachers to meet classroom objectives while giving students a way to learn that’s familiar and comfortable. Graphite.org, a site run by common sense media, ranks and reviews education products and games for teachers. Here are just some of my favorites: www.icivics.org: Icivics is a great website for socials studies teachers—offering games that simulate the experience of working in the government. It covers citizenship, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, budgeting, separation of powers, and the branches of government. This website can be used as homework, individual work, and teacher-led lessons. And it’s all content-based—meaning students must understand the content to be able to play. At the end of the game, the student has the option to print his or her score...
Tags: Games
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Digital Literacy, Citizenship and Internet Safety

Posted by Tony Linzmeier
Tony Linzmeier
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Thursday, August 08, 2013
in K-12 General Interest
Part I: Speaking the Language of Kids I was recently approached by a principal to assemble training sessions for her staff on Digital Literacy, Citizenship and Internet Safety. This is such a broad topic which could take months to unpeel. In this series of blogs, I will introduce you to some ideas and resources on how to keep our children safe and help keep us aware of what they’re seeing out there. As I begin this series of blogs, I can recommend the website commonsensemedia.org. This resource covers topics related to digital literacy, citizenship, Internet safety, and much, much more.  In my future posts I will be digging into the specifics of how this web site can be used to train faculty.  For this post I wanted to reflect briefly on one small component of this site that has become a go-to tool in my personal life when it comes to media and children. But first, a brief background. I am the father of two girls.  One five years old and one ten.  I refer to them as my “five and dime”. I am not a follower of current trends in television or movies.  So when my older daughter comes to...
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Creativity in the Classroom

Posted by Eric Flowers
Eric Flowers
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, July 03, 2013
in K-12 General Interest
I wonder if there is a school in The United States that would say it was not interested in cultivating and supporting its students’ creativity. While I believe all schools would say they are deeply invested in the development of their students’ creativity, I don’t think the evidence is there to support their claim. With that said, the inability to successfully support creativity within a school or district is not entirely the fault of the school. It has been common practice across The United States that when budget cuts occur: if a subject area is not tested by a standardized test it's cut. The focus of a school can feel as though the only important goal of a school year is good test scores. While that is the perception, and part of the reality, we can't overlook that schools ARE filled with caring and dedicated people who are passionately concerned with both their students' future and their present progress. I have worked with such teachers and considered myself one of those teachers. I taught in Pennsylvania, and regardless of the district the elementary school was in: once the PSSAs (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) started looming there was an attitudinal shift....
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Collaborating via Google

Posted by Tony Linzmeier
Tony Linzmeier
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, June 05, 2013
in K-12 General Interest
Google Apps for Education offers tools that have counterpart offerings from other companies or vendors.  Email, word processing, video, etc are not things specific to Google.  There are other sources for many if not all the things that Google has to offer.  For the most part, Google Apps is nothing unique. What Google does offer, that in my opinion is unique, is the level and ease of collaboration. Documents that can be created with the tools/apps available in Google Drive can be worked on collaboratively with one or many individuals as long as they have a google account and the hardware to run it. As an example, a word processing document can be “shared” with anyone who has a Google account.  This sharing allows for editing between the shared person or people.  The level of editing can be controlled between full editing rights to read only to read only with the ability to make comments separate from the document.  Once a document is shared it can be changed wherever and whenever it needs to be.  All updates all almost instantaneous and there is revision tracking so previous versions can be reinstated. Even more powerful is that a single document can be...
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5 Powerful Social Media Tools For the Classroom

Posted by VARtek
VARtek
User is currently offline
on Thursday, May 16, 2013
in Social Media in Education
  Classrooms are becoming more and more advanced with the implementation of technology on a daily basis, especially when classrooms are flipped.  One of most powerful tools both teachers and students can and should be using in the modern-day classroom is Social Media.  As the flipped classrooms concept has grown popular, receiving more supporters each day, many have been noticing the need to increase the level of communication between students and teachers. Social media is a way for teachers, students, and parents to communicate with one another, for students to share ideas, or for parents to keep track of student progress.  Learning and communicating outside the school hours with technology aid is a modern adaptation of education that has showed great results.  It upgrades both the learning process and the relationship between students, educators and parents. Here are the type 5 Social Media tools every classroom should be using right now: 1. Wikispaces Classroom With Wikispaces, students can share thoughts, images, and text, discuss assignments, publish projects, and express themselves.  It is a controlled channel of communication that can be restricted so that only students in the class may see the posts. 2. Edmodo Edmodo is a popular learning environment where discussions form class...
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The Tools That Google Offers

Posted by Tony Linzmeier
Tony Linzmeier
Classroom Technology Coach
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, May 07, 2013
in The Future of Technology
Google offers a wide range of office automation tools, at its core offering, as well as a myriad of other tools that range from audio/video to image manipulation.   I wanted to take this opportunity to cover what Google has to offer.  There are some very powerful and easy to use tools that are worth noting. As I type this blog posting in a Google word processing document I am using the menu bar to lead me through the description of the google tools.  Your offerings may be slightly different depending on how your Google Apps for Education is administered or implemented.   Google+ Google+ is Google’s social networking service.  Because the nature of social media, many schools opt not to enable this function for their district deployments.  If you would like more information on it from the source, click here:  http://www.google.com/intl/en_US/+/learnmore// My next menu items are “Search” and “Images”.  Two very familiar tools that most people have  experience with. Mail is the next item on the menu bar.  Google Mail is a very powerful email package.  In my 20 years in Technology I have found Google Mail to be one of the best if not the best email package...
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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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