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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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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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VARtek Blog Contributors

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
Mark Benn
Technology Integration Coach
Dan Molloy
Technical Services Manager

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