Beginning the Nexus 7 Adventure

The New Google Nexus 7

In December, my school, a K-5 elementary in Georgia, purchased 42 of the new Google Nexus 7 tablets to supplement our schoolwide BYOD program. We have been primarily using iPad minis in grades K & 1 with a mix of older tablets and laptops in grades 2-5, but this purchase will allow grades 2-4 to have large sets of tablets to share. As the technology coordinator, I am responsible for setting up, maintaining, and conducting PD on facilitating the use of the tablets in the classroom. Although our teachers are somewhat familiar with Android devices due to the BYOD program, most have never owned or used one in the past.

The Learning Curve

As an iOS user, I found that Android devices were a little hard to get comfortable with in the beginning. Many users are tripped up by basics, such as locating the all apps button and how to connect to WiFi in the settings icon. I’m hoping to get our teachers past these bumps quickly, so we can move on to how to have students use them in the classroom. The ideal situation would be to let each teacher use a Nexus as their primary way to connect to the internet for a few days, just to figure out some of the basics and to understand some of the frustration their students might initially feel with a new device. But, I don’t believe that every teacher needs to be an expert with each piece of technology in their classroom. They only need to be expert facilitators, not expert users.

How do you help get teachers comfortable with new technology in your school?

What are some strategies/structures you have in place to support this?

Initial Setup


Here is the initial screen setup for a 4th grade device. Although we are technically a GAFE school, we don’t have permission for individual student accounts using their district IDs, so for now I have 5-6 devices set up on one generic Google Apps login. This gives us access to Drive for cloud storage and integration with many other apps, but still leaves us short of the ideal solution.

I chose to focus mainly on versatile creativity apps for the initial setup instead of content-specific ones. The ones in the picture above are the free ones that are on so far. Based on budget, the picture below shows my wish list for paid apps. I would love any suggestions on other free or paid apps that you use with elementary students.


Going Forward

We already have scheduled monthly technology staff development sessions to help teachers learn about new hardware, software, and web tools. I am hopeful that these sessions will give teachers what they need to help them feel comfortable using the Nexus 7 as another tool that help them facilitate engaging, personalized learning experiences for their students.  I want to ensure that we always focus on technology as another tool, as a means to an end and not the end itself. I know that in a few years that these tablets will be obsolete and we will have moved on to other things, so I’m not deluding myself into thinking that they are the answer to every problem in education, but I do believe that they can be an important tool to teach a curriculum that prepares our students for middle school, high school, college, career, and beyond.

Have you used the new Nexus 7 in the classroom yet? 

Any suggestions for apps or settings that would help an elementary student be successful?

Are You Learning to Learn Like Your Students? 8 Tips to Modernize Your Workflow

21st century learner

Image courtesy of Ashley Earnest’s EDM310 blog.

21st century teaching isn’t just about facilitating student learning with modern apps and web tools. It’s about adjusting our workflows as well to reflect the possibilities of a new, interconnected world. I hope these 8 tips will help get you started along the path to learning to learn like your students. Feel free to list others in the comments section as well!


1. Join (and participate) in a Social Network SOLELY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES.

Okay, okay, I know. Many of us are on social media. We use it, we like it, we know it fairly well. But, have you ever thought of using a social network specifically for educational purposes? The best one for educators so far is Twitter, with a host of content and grade-specific chats available every week (a couple of my favorites are #edtechchat and #gaedchat).  There are also lots of tips for educators getting started with Twitter. You can find some of those here, here, and here. There are so many resources out there on this topic I don’t have space to list them all here, but Twitter is certainly the leader so far for educators looking to create their own personalized professional development experience. Also, check out this great Twitter resource page from @cybraryman – it has everything from chats, to new-user guides, to curated lists of people to follow.

Also worth a mention here is Facebook. Yes, I know. We all love looking a cute pictures of other people’s kids and links to conservative and liberal rants, but did you know that Facebook is also used by thousands of educators to connect to each other? Consider setting up a strictly professional account to connect with educators. You can use this account for your professional needs and keep your personal account for those cute pictures of your kids. There are many mobile apps and Chrome extensions to make managing multiple social media accounts easily. I use HootSuite for iPad, but there are a host of others out there as well so you don’t have to keep remembering and re-entering passwords.

There are others out there as well – LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and EdModo just to name a few. The point is to get out there and join a network. Add some educators and start reading what they have to say first, then add your voice to the mix! Still not sure where/how to begin? This great blog post by Samantha Cleaver can help you get started.


2. Subscribe to YouTube educational channels.

Time to take a break from watching “What Does the Fox Say” and start using YouTube for more than a quick laugh. There are hundreds of excellent videos aimed at teachers as well as livestreams of podcasts, Google Hangouts, and conference sessions as well. Some of my personal favorites are Common Sense Media Education, Edutopia, and Matt B. Gomez (a great kindergarten teacher – I love watching what his students can do with technology!) These channels will inspire you to try new things in your classroom by showing you real-life examples of what students around the country are doing every day. Also, don’t forget to search YouTube if you’re having trouble using an app or web tool – there are a lot of great tutorials out there, too!

Just Google It

image courtesy of

3. Google it before emailing someone.

We’ve all seen it – that annoying email asking a simple question that Google could have answered much faster and much better. Don’t be that person. Type that question into Google and save our fingers another useless email deletion. YouTube search works great, too! If you’re looking to dish out a little friendly revenge to that person, try using Let Me Google That For You.  It’s a great way to give them a little visual of exactly what you mean!

Cloud storage gives you access to any file, any time, anywhere.

Cloud storage gives you access to any file, any time, anywhere.

4. Use cloud storage for personal and educational use.

If you’re like me, then your district’s IT department hasn’t yet fully embraced cloud storage. We still have gigantic file servers, but no officially sponsored cloud storage to access our files from home. But, have no fear. There are lots of great (and free!) cloud sites that can help you store and quickly access documents, photos, videos, and presentations: A few that I use are Google Drive (30G free with a Google Apps for Education account), Dropbox, Box, and Bitcasa. Most of these offer 10G-15G with a free account and more for a yearly fee. Go with the free account first and don’t forget to download the app and the browser extension to make these easy for you to use.

Blog photo

Blogs are the gold mine of educational content on the web.

5. Follow (and comment on) educational blogs.

Whether you are a teacher, administrator, coach, or district leader, blogs are truly the gold mine of educational content on the web. They are where the rubber meets the road – where the headlines and tidbits get fleshed out for you to think about, reflect on, and refine your practice as an educator. Listing all of my favorites would take the rest of the afternoon, so you’ll have to make do with the links below to a few lists of best educational bloggers. I am trying to become more consistent with my own blog – time is a precious resource – but I love the chance writing a blog and commenting gives me to think deeply about my own practice as an educator.

EdTechK-12’s Must Read IT Blogs

Best Teacher Blog Finalists – EduBlog Awards

Teach 100 – A Daily Ranking of Education Blogs

I also always make it a practice to comment on blogs that I read. Not to impress anyone or just because I feel like writing either. Commenting gives me the chance to connect with the author and others about how the issues in the post relate to my own situation. I have found that authors almost always respond and that the conversation is collegial and friendly, even if I disagree with some of their points.

Collaboration stop sign

6. Collaborate with colleagues in the cloud.

“Did you mean the 2nd revision you emailed me or the 3rd revision? Or the 2nd edition of the 3rd revision?”

I don’t know about you, but I would be okay if I never heard this or anything like it again. Working on documents with colleagues can be one of the more frustrating experiences we have as teachers, but, take heart, help is out there! Google Drive (Docs, Slides, and Sheets) is a great way to collaborate securely with colleagues and even offers revision history in case somebody messed up and you need to go back to a previous version. This is a great way to work on presentations, lesson planning, unit resources, and common assessment with your colleagues and avoid the frustrations associated with file attachments, large emails, and questions over who did what. Even if your school isn’t a Google Apps for Education school, you can sign up on your own and get 15GB of free storage, and that doesn’t even include the docs, slides, and sheets that you make using Google Tools! Microsoft Office 365 recently announced an upgrade for schools to make this possible for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel as well. These or tools like them are a must as we transition to a more cloud-based environment in the future.


Where do you store all of your links, bookmarks, and notes?

7. Use an online content curation/ note storage tool.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a complete Evernote junkie, but there are many more tools out there that allow you to save bookmarked websites, notes, articles, grocery lists, etc. so they can be accessed from any device with an active internet connection. The important thing about all of them is to ALWAYS TAG YOUR NOTES. What is tagging, you might ask? It is essentially your own, easily searchable organizational system. No longer do you have to remember what notebook you put things in or what you called a certain file. As long as you attach tags to your entries, simply search by tag, and Viola!, your information is there. I use Evernote for articles, web resources, shopping lists, pictures of learning, receipts, and much, much more.

Some other popular content curation and note storage tools are Google Keep and Pocket. These have the same types of functionality as Evernote. One thing I like about all of them is that there are apps (and Chrome extensions) for every platform to simplify the process of storing and retrieving your information. Found a link on your computer but don’t have it with you at home? No problem – just open the app and get what you need from your smartphone. These tools really are game-changers for organization and being able to access that lesson you did last year – even if you threw out that notebook!

Social Bookmarking

photo courtesy of Lena West at

8. Try out Social Bookmarking.

Social bookmarking is #1 on my EduNew Year’s Resolution list. Web content is tagged and aggregated by users that you follow, making it much more efficient to find what you are looking for. Instead of searching google for great lesson plans, why not search a database curated by the 17 4th-grade math teachers that you follow? I’m looking forward to trying this out to see how it works for me. Two that I plan to try are:

Educlipper – think Pinterest for teachers – your education digital clipboard to access the content that you care about and filter out the noise! iPad app and Chrome extension available to make it easy

Diigo a powerful research and knowledge-sharing tool – another great way to find and store things that are important to you and to teachers like you

I’m looking forward to learning about these and sharing in a future post.

Which of these 8 strategies are you already proficient with? Are any of them on your to-do list for 2014? I look forward to reading about yours in the comments below!


11 Must-Have Web Tools for Teachers

11 Must-Have Web Tools for Teachers

11 Web-based tools that are FREE, available on multiple platforms (web, iOS, Android), and make life easier for any teacher. Created on

Embracing Change: The Key to Improving Technology Integration in the Classroom


“Another new initiative? Changing something else again? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

This is a familiar refrain that I hear from teachers on an almost daily basis. It seems as if they are constantly pushed and pulled in new directions, and never allowed to slow down, reflect, and refine their instructional plans to benefit their students. It’s true, there has been a lot of change recently in education, and there appears to be even more on the horizon. While your first gut reaction might be to complain, student achievement data of our country as a whole tells us that we can’t just stop and keep doing the same things over and over – some amount of change is necessary for us to prepare our students for college, career, and beyond.


What Does This Have to do with Technology?


Throughout human history, technological innovations have always faced resistance. To embrace technology is to embrace change – to go out of your comfort zone, to risk failure, to venture into the great unknown. When I talk to students about technology, I often mention the early explorers of the 1400s and 1500s. There were many that refused to adopt new methods and navigational tools, such as the compass and the astrolabe. I’m sure many of these guys were really good explorers and sailors that were dedicated to their careers and wanted to change the world. But their names are not written in any history books. They were unwilling to leave their comfort zones and embrace technological change, and, as a result, they were left behind by pioneers like Magellan and Columbus – guys who were willing to embrace new tools and stake their lives and the lives of many men on these new tools and new ships, venturing to places that no European had gone before.

Back to our question at hand: how do we as teacher-leaders help our colleagues to embrace change? How do we convince the teacher that always sits in the same pew at church every week to strike out and try something new? Alas, I wish there were a magic pill, a one-sentence answer that I could plop in here that would do the trick. If only life were that simple! I do, however, think that the key lies in the cultures we create at our schools. If we can build robust professional learning communities and infuse them with a “coaching culture” mentality, than we can impact the practices of every teacher in our building and radically alter the ways that they view change and technology.


What is a Coaching Culture? How Do I Build One at My School?


In their book Creating a Coaching Culture for Professional Learning Communities, Jane Kise and Beth Russell invite us to take a deeply personal look on how our thoughts, beliefs, and actions impact the culture at our schools. One of their participants describes belonging to a meaningful PLC in this way:

“Knowing the talents and strengths of more of my colleagues helps me refer a teacher in need of assistance to precisely the right person. I now understand that I am not equipped to help everyone personally and have started to utilize the talents of others more regularly.”

Once again, making a difference in professional practice comes down to building relationships. If you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the people you work with, how can you effectively help them? If you don’t have strong, collaborative relationships with your colleagues, how can you be expected to get them to adopt a new idea? To embrace BYOD? It would be almost impossible.

What Now?

Building a coaching culture is not a weekly, monthly, or even a yearly project. It takes strong leadership and investment in mentoring other leaders in your school. I would invite you to reflect on these questions and decide what YOUR next step is as a teacher-leader or administrator in your school. What can YOU do to help create or to further the PLC in your school? How can you build relationships, know your co-workers better, and be a leader in embracing technology integration? Here are a few ideas.

  • Read and reflect on a great book together, such as “Creating a Coaching Culture”
  • Create or improve a strong leadership team that empowers teachers from all levels in your building
  • Focus on an action plan after each professional development and invite teachers to share at the next meeting how they integrated the new technique/tool into their practice
  • Do the little things to build up relationships – write notes, put in that extra time, help someone without being asked
  • Model, lead by example, and always be willing to share your failures, not just your successes

What are YOU doing to help build the coaching culture in your school? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section. Thanks for reading!