Building a Legacy for Student Work


As I stare at the ever-growing stack of drawings, holiday-themed costruction paper projects, and various other “creations” brought home by my 5-year-old, I can’t help but wonder: what am I going to do with those? Will I still have them in 5 years? 10 years? Will I even be able to find them next year? I would love to tell you that I will keep these safe to give to my kids down the road (like my mom did with my Dukes of Hazzard matchbox cars – THANKS MOM!), but honestly, I’m not sure that I will. Organization isn’t exactly my strong suit. We might move. Maybe a squirrel will get into our attic and rummage through the box I put them in. I’m not really sure at this point what will happen, but it’s not looking good for my son.

But, honestly, I don’t really worry that much about this particular work, this singular year of pre-Kindergarten. I worry more about the bulk of the work he will complete from Kindergarten through 12th grade, the core work of learning that will shape and mold him into the adult he will one day become. And the good news is this: I won’t have to worry about where I put the paper, because the majority of his work will be DIGITAL. That’s right. I’m not sure he will ever know the feeling of carrying a backpack laden with 47 pounds of Middle School textbooks, or figuring out which folder to put Spelling Test #39 in. He will, however, have to deal with managing files, cloud storage,  linking, and  manipulating an embed code. This is where my passion lies. How do we ensure that student digital work is saved, stored, and easily accessible to students & parents for years to come?



Digital portfolios or e-portfolios are rapidly gaining momentum in K-12 as a way to organize, share, and save student work. This year, as we began to discuss how to implement these at my elementary school, we were determined to forge ahead with a solution that could store any kind of student work – whether it be documents, a web link, or an embeddable object. Student documents are erased from their network drives at the end of each school year, and we have yet to embrace a cloud storage solution in my district, so we needed a way to ensure that their work isn’t gone forever. In the past, we copied their Home drives to a CD, then re-loaded that CD at the beginning of the next year. It was a good stopgap measure, but it didn’t do anything to address either web-based student work or our district’s server space issues.

We have chosen Weebly Campus as our platform for our e-Portfolios this year, and I believe that this solution will serve us well in the future. Students put in digital work (document, link, picture, embed code) in a blog format along with a text reflection on the work. This gives students a chance to reflect on the ISTE-S standards and it gives them their own digital workspace to show to parents and friends as well. I’m excited to see what our students will be able to accomplish with their own “websites”, and I believe that it will be another important way for us to tell our story and to better inform parents about the type of digital work that we are doing.

A digital legacy begins this year for 900+ students, and a very special 5-year-old’s will begin next year. Paper-loathing parents everywhere will surely breath a sigh of relief.


How are you preserving student work? Are their blogs/websites password protected? Please share your ideas and experiences with storing and showcasing digital student work in the comments below.





Unlocking the Power of Video

Video Film image

Image courtesy of Mosio for Libraries

Okay, let’s face it: video is not a new medium. From the days of silent film through the late 1960s , it was the sole domain of professionals. Big, bulky, mounted broadcast cameras would clearly not have a place in the home, much less in a classroom. The early 1980s explosion of VHS camcorders firmly placed it in the hands of the public (my mom still has some classic childhood videos of me to prove it!) . But, up until recently, equipment costs, file/data storage, and security concerns have largely kept it out of the hands of students. 

Even today, some schools and districts are slow to embrace the power of student-created (and edited) video? Why? At the elementary level, teachers often cite time concerns and lack of training. Standardized testing and letter/number grade systems increase pressure on teachers to stick with paper-and-pencil assessments. Districts that still rely heavily on networked drives for storage are battling size issues. Cloud storage solutions like Google Drive can open new pathways for students to leverage this medium to showcase their learning, connect with others, and to impact their communities and beyond. Standards-based grading and elimination of NCLB testing mandates would help, too, but I’ll save that for another post.

Today, my 8-year-old and I set out on a Minecraft screencasting mission. He enjoys watching YouTube videos with players demonstrating various aspects of the game, and he was ready to take the step from consumer to creator. Thanks to Air Server, Screencast-o-matic, WeVideo, and some patience from both parties, we were able to get the job done. He really enjoyed being able to create and especially doing the video editing part. Usually these tasks are reserved for middle school and above, but I see no reason that a 2nd or 3rd grader couldn’t use a simple video editor. I hope that you enjoy our production and that it inspires you to take the video plunge with your students!

Click the picture to watch my awesome video!

Click the picture to watch my awesome video!


Out With the Old, In With the New

New computers await set-up

New computers await set-up

Adios, XP

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

The past few weeks have certainly brought a lot of excitement and change around my school as it relates to instructional technology. Within the span of just a few short weeks, every computer and printer in the building will be replaced by brand-new hardware. Windows XP has given way (just in time – Microsoft support ceases in April) to the Windows 7 operating system. Gone are the days of cursing the 32-bit operating system for its failure to manage multiple tasks without crashing. No more light-gray start button. No more Internet Explorer 8. No more ____________ (fill in the blank with YOUR least favorite thing about Windows XP). All is grand. The sun dawns on a new horizon. I can hear the angels singing their grand anthem to usher us into this new era of problem-free computing.

Wait a minute…..WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?????

It would be folly to believe that all technology-related problems could simply be wiped away by new hardware and a new operating system. We will still face challenges with whatever hardware our students use. There will still be glitches, missing software, and the uncomfortable feeling that things aren’t exactly how they used to be. Will we let those problems overwhelm us or will we roll with the punches? I know that our students will figure it out, and I hope that we won’t be far behind!


Short-Term Frustrations

image from - by Sybren Stuvel

image from – by Sybren Stuvel

Change inherently causes a certain amount of disequilibrium for those who are used to routine. Missing programs, different desktop icons, and new locations for cable inputs can run the gamut from being a slight annoyance to totally derailing a teacher’s lesson or a teacher’s entire day. Why do we let technology frustrate us so? I hope that our teachers are able to rely on the support of their colleagues and the tech team to overcome those initial obstacles that stand in the way of their successful integration of their new technology. It might require a few days, or even weeks, of discomfort and exploration before we can feel like we have mastered the basics of Windows 7, new printers, and new projectors (coming soon).

Once we’ve moved past this initial adjustment period, what will we do with this new technology? Will we seek out new features and new uses for our students, or will we be overwhelmed by all the different-ness and revert to less student-centered and more teacher-centered instructional strategies? I hope not. I hope that we will start asking questions like “How can these new tools enable our students to do things more effectively and efficiently?” and “How can we leverage these new tools to enhance student engagement, teacher collaboration, and effective technology integraion?” Only time will tell, but I know I’ll be giving 110% to lead by example as we move forward with all of our new “stuff”. I’ve started by creating a presentation to show our teachers some of the new features in Windows 7.

So, What’s New? And How Can I Use It?

new stuff

One of the exciting new features of our student and teacher laptops is an integrated forward-facing camera. I am personally excited to teach lessons in classes using Movenote, a great web-tool (and app) that lets students upload images, PowerPoints, and PDFs and record themselves as they present. This is a great way for students to create a video and to present “to the class” (and beyond!) without having the nerves that come with standing up in front of their peers. Be sure to check out the Movenote tutorial page I created on our Harbins Technology Central website to learn more about how you can use Movenote in your class!

I am quite certain that there are more great features for our new hardware that we will discover as we begin to dig in and explore the differences.  Our students will no doubt figure out much more that we could ever imagine and “suggest” some new uses for us. I’m looking forward to all of the possibilities as we begin another chapter in our tech integration journey. How have you successfully integrated new hardware into your school and your lesson plans? What has worked to help you overcome the “new stuff” barriers inherent in this process?

Sharing Our Journey

Mrs. Smith visits with some 1st graders from Mrs. Wiley's class

Mrs. Smith visits with some 1st graders from Mrs. Wiley’s class

BYOD Visitation Day – February 7th, 2014

Putting your school and your work on display isn’t always easy. When teachers, administrators, and district leaders give up their time with students to be at another school, they want it to be worth their time and effort. They should leave not just knowing more than they did when they came, but also having an action plan to implement change in their own building. No journey can be replicated by others without a map. In much the same way, documenting and sharing a school’s journey can help other schools determine their own path. They may not follow the exact same path as we did, but at least they will have a handy reference guide if they have trouble navigating or if they become lost on their way toward successful technology integration.

It was with these important factors in mind that we hosted staff from several other GCPS elementary and middle schools on February 7th. The experience of preparing for the day, putting ourselves in our participants’ shoes, and reflecting on our own technology integration journey was both invigorating and humbling; it is amazing to look at the quality and depth of our student work and how much we have accomplished in the past few years. At the same time, we also realize that we are at a particular place on our path – we have not yet “arrived.” If we ever begin to think that we have, I hope to find another place to work. Educators must always be willing to reflect and ask “What can I do better next time?” Losing that critical reflective attitude would be the death knell for the growth, innovation, and continuous improvement that we pride ourselves on.

Ensuring Equity

Have you ever been to a theater performance? Have you wondered about how much time and effort went into designing the stage, the scenery, lighting, sound, costumes, so that everything was “perfect”? I have, and unfortunately, I’ve also been to visit other school where I wondered the same thing. Our leadership team was intentional about ensuring that our visitation day was not a production, but a meaningful learning event for teachers. We decided to open every classroom in the school to our visitors to reinforce the message that ensuring an equitable education for our students is our most important job. According to research by Dr. William Sanders and the TVAP (Tennessee Value Added Project), it takes two years for a student to recover from having an ineffective teachers. He also states that students who have an ineffective teacher for two years in a row may never recover. It is therefore incumbent upon us as educational leaders to make sure that doesn’t happen in our school buildings. Each student deserves an effective teacher – we don’t want our future student success determined by the luck of the draw or by a couple of ineffective teachers.

We often joke in our building about putting on a “dog & pony show” when people come to visit. We have seen this in other schools and it is natural to assume that’s what people do when they are in the spotlight. But, nothing could have been further from the truth when we welcomed guests into our building. Our teachers did what they do every day, integrating technology effectively and using it as a part of quality teaching and learning. We don’t do “Technology for technology’s sake”, we integrate when it will help students achieve a specific learning outcome. To do anything less would be doing our students a great disservice and perpetuating an educational myth that we are working hard to dispel. Effective technology integration is about quality learning and teaching. I know, we usually put it in the other order, but I feel like we should list the most important thing first. If learning doesn’t happen, the quality (or style, method, enthusiasm, etc.) of the teaching is irrelevant. We are here first and foremost to ensure that our students learn; everything else is secondary.

Here is a Prezi that we used to share our journey in the opening session.

A Culture of Collaboration

One of the most important things that we can emphasize to teachers and leaders that come to our school is our culture of collaboration. We can do that by telling them (which we do some of), or we can let them experience it by giving them time to digest and plan with their own school teams. With that in mind, we had sessions split by job title (Administrator, Teacher, Technology Coordinator/Media Specialist) and by grade-level interest (K-2 and 3-5) where we shared everything from administrative details to lesson plans to student work samples. Here is a Haiku Deck that I used with the K-2 interest group.

We even had time for a brief app smackdown! I shared quick demos of Write About This, Educreations, Skitch, and Explain Everything from my iPad so that teachers could get a glimpse of how we use them in our K-2 classrooms. Here is a link to our BYOD Visitation Day resource page that contains all of the resources I mentioned and more!



We are far from a perfect school. We have technology frustrations like blocked websites, limited access to collaborative tools, no student emails, and a learning management system that isn’t ideal for our young students. But, we choose to focus on “What we can” instead of “What we can’t.” In the long run, it is what our students need. They need to have choice and voice in their learning – learning that is authentic, engaging, and meets them where they are. It was a true pleasure for us to share this with other teachers and leaders in our district. I’ll leave you with a Ticket Out the Door, like I always do with my students.

Where are you / your school in your technology integration journey?

What steps are you planning to take to ensure equity for all of your students?