Self-Paced Professional Learning – Part I

Who Dares to Teach, Dares to Learn

Image courtesy of Ana Cristina Pradas /

I have always loved professional learning. I realize that the popular term is “staff development”, but to me that sounds like an all-knowing instructor waving the magic wand and dictating how the staff will be developed. As we move (hopefully) into an era of more choice in teacher professional learning, I have been inspired by edcamps, tweetups, and other events where educators themselves are asked what they want to learn and what they want to share. Although job-embedded teacher learning is an essential element of any successful school plan, many teachers still need time on their own to dig deeper or to experiment with something they have learned.

With that in mind, I have decided to create a website dedicated to teachers at my school in order to give them resources that they can use at their own pace, in their own way. I know this has been done before, but my hope is that this site (it already existed, but I didn’t really have a vision of its purpose at the time I created it) will become a place for teachers to use the self-differentiated resources to learn more about specific apps, web tools, questioning strategies, and creative ideas to use in their classrooms. Enjoy Part I of “Favorite Apps & Web Tools” and feel free to explore the rest of the site!




How to Avoid Technology Overload

Image courtesy of Chaney

Image courtesy of 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?

Website & App Reviews – Creativity Tools

App Review Photo

As my school moves ahead full-throttle with BYOD this year, we are working to review websites and apps that work well for our students. We started in October with Educreations, ShowMe, and Book Creator. We wanted to start with tools that were versatile, easy-to-use, and could be used across grade levels and content areas. We used a Google Form to make the review and then I published to a website using a format similar to from Common Sense Media. Check out our first 3 reviews, complete with teacher quotes and a star-rating system!

Website and App Reviews – Creativity




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