Spice Up an Old Presentation

Welcome! This year I’m excited to be part of the 30 Goals Challenge for Educators. The theme this year is Make The Difference and we are on an amazing world tour. I am your  Inspire Leader for this leg of the journey as we travel to Atlanta, Georgia. I invite you to accomplish the following goal: ‘Spice Up an Old Presentation’’.




Accomplish The Goal

We all have them – those great presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) that we made a few years back that we love to use every year. We spent a lot of time on them to get them ‘just perfect’, and we love bringing them back out each year or each semester for our new students to learn from. This year, I am challenging you to spice up your old presentation to give it new life and to use it to add some inspiration and motivation to your students’ learning, no matter what the topic or the course. Some suggestions for giving your presentation a little spring cleaning:


  • Update the images in your presentation – consider adding personal images or infographic-style avatars
  • Choose a new theme with a modern or novel layout that will grab students’ attention
  • Eliminate bullet points (or at least use nifty ones like these stars!)
  • Revise your text to include less words per page, and greater screen space devoted to images
  • Add a link to a video
  • Add a poll from Socrative or another web tool to gather formative assessment data during your presentation
  • Narrate and post your presentation to an online host (SlideShare, YouTube, etc.) so students can view it from any internet-enabled device
  • Make a mini-version of your presentation using a new app or web tool


You certainly don’t have to do all of these steps to a single presentation to spice it up. Any 1 or a combination of these steps will breathe new life  into your old presentation and get you thinking about ways to engage your students with the content. Be sure to check out a list of resources at the end of this post to help you accomplish this challenge.

My Reflection


Taking a critical look at my past work is something that I usually dread and will procrastinate or avoid it if at all possible. However, I have realized that being reflective is an essential part of being an educator. If I don’t seek to constantly improve my pedagogy and my practice, I am doing a great disservice to my students. I only have these students once. They only have one shot at learning in my class. I don’t have time to try it out next year, I need to get started now!

In the past year, I have started using Google Slides as my go-to presentation tool. I love the ease with which I can insert images by url, insert YouTube video, and share with my colleagues. Haiku Deck has also been a favorite of mine. I’ve taken an old Revolutionary War presentation and made a deck with only images and titles. It provided a great conversation starter for my students and they were able to learn from the images and from each other without the screen being cluttered with text.


I’m looking forward to learning from you as you take this challenge – I can’t wait to see all of the great work that you and your students do!


About Atlanta, GA


The Peach State; The Heart of the Deep South; Atlanta goes by many names. A  new one will be added this year – home of the ISTE 2014 conference! I’m excited to welcome educators from around the world to Atlanta, GA. We have amazing food, Southern hospitality, and beautiful, lush landscapes to awe and inspire you. Here are a few of my favorite things and places. I hope you’ll be able to visit us in June for ISTE14!



Piedmont Park, a 189-acre urban park, is located less

than a mile from downtown Atlanta attractions



Mary Mac’s has AMAZING southern food! Be sure to check them out for

the best sweet tea, country-fried teak, and, of course, peach pie!


The fabulous Fox Theater is a favorite Atlanta venue for

concerts, shows, and entertainment of all kinds!


Out With the Old, In With the New

New computers await set-up

New computers await set-up

Adios, XP

image courtesy of directron.com

image courtesy of directron.com

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 flickr.com - by Sybren Stuvel

image from flickr.com – 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?

How to Avoid Technology Overload

Image courtesy of bizzuka.com/Paul Chaney

Image courtesy of bizzuka.com/Paul Chaney

“Another Web Tool? Seriously? I already forgot about the one you shared last week!”
“I have no idea what my password was for that site! I don’t even remember my username!”
“Let me do a Google search. I’m sure I can find that site I used last year.”

Sound familiar? Have you found yourself saying any of these things recently? Teachers at my school certainly have. We are bombarded daily with new web tools, apps, and technology-centered activities for students, yet we rarely hear about structured ways to organize the “digital mess” that all of this information creates in our computers, tablets, and most of all, in our brains.

Stop. Pause. Take a breath. It’s time to step back from the student aspect and take some time to focus on what teachers need to be able to effectively facilitate instruction with digital content. Gone are the days of the 38-mile-long bookmarks list on Internet Explorer and the passwords piled up on sticky notes. We need modern solutions to the problem of storing & classifying our 138 favorite websites (and the passwords that go along with them), the 347 good ideas we had last month, and maybe even where we put our glasses. Has anybody seen my coffee cup?

As I prepare to lead technology staff development at my school, one central question keeps popping up in my mind. How can I possibly expect someone to remember, let alone use, this next great digital tool.  The answer is, quite simply, I can’t. I can’t ask a teacher to put another tool in their digital tool belt without first offering some solutions to the electronic clutter that we are currently wading through. Here are 3 categories of digital tools that I believe are essential for every teacher. You only need to choose one from each category, but make sure that you do choose one from each to truly complete your digital tool belt.


Password Storage 

Keeper Security – Web, chrome extension, iOs, Android, Windows mobile (pretty much anything!) –  free trial, $9.99/yr

LastPass – Just like Keeper security, works on pretty much any browser and mobile device – free limited version, paid for full


Online Bookmarking/Note-Taking

Evernote – The go-to app for syncing notes and remembering everything you need. Available on all platforms with lots of great chrome extensions (Clearly, Clipper) as well. Great apps like Skitch & Penultimate can sync with it also. Free to upload 60MB per month, premium plans available.

Wunderlist – I haven’t tried this one yet, but many people I know swear by it. Similar to Evernote, it will sync info across all your computers and devices and also has a collaboration feature. Free to sign up with paid plans as well.

Google Keep – The web version of this one is great, but the mobile apps (iOS especially) still leave a bit to be desired. Still, it’s a great way to make to-do lists and manage tasks.

EduClipper – From our friends at EduTecher (@adambellow), this is a completely free, fully-customizable Pinterest-style website for teachers and students, with a recently-released iOS app. I am still in the early stages of exploring, but it looks like a fantastic way to curate content and cut through the clutter to access what you need to help your students.

Diigo – A great bookmarking tool with a free edition for educators. Diigo sports several great extensions and makes it easy to categorize, curate, and retrieve your favorite websites. On my list to try!

Pocket – Another content-curation and bookmarking tool. I will research this further in the near future!


Collaboration/Cloud Storage

Google Docs/Drive – The king of collaboration and cloud storage, all in one. ‘Nuff said.

Office 365 – Microsoft’s answer to the rise of Google Drive. Only $99 gets you the full office suite with a stripped-down version to use in the cloud. Many school districts are more comfortable moving to this than to Google Drive, but I have read many mixed reviews.

Dropbox – Cloud storage at its finest. I have been using this since its early inception – it’s a great way to back up files, photos, and share docs in the cloud with others (hint: invite friends to get more FREE storage!)

Box – Another nifty cloud storage tool. 10G of free storage up-front with nice integration from mobile apps. Give it a try!



Which of these tools are essential to your daily workflow? Are there any great ones that I missed? I am interested in helping teachers at my school improve their productivity and ability to absorb, organize, and store new information and ideas – to modernize their workflow (more on that in this post).

These 3 categories are definitely first on my to-do list. Now, where did I put that sticky note?

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?