Monday, August 28, 2017

School Presence on Social Media

So, what’s your school’s social media presence like? Has your school just started to dip its toe into the social media landscape by starting a Facebook page? Or have you gone all in with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Zanzaboom?

You’re right, I made that last one up.

Building your school’s social media presence in today’s social media landscape might seem a little intimidating, maybe even a little risky. But I’d argue it’s worth the effort. Effective social media use isn’t something reserved for celebrities and multinational companies. I invite you to consider a few points on why your school should think about building a more robust social media presence.

Get the Word Out, Cheaply
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent ways to get information about your school out to a large portion of your school’s community. Social media doesn’t reach every single person out there, but there are probably quite a few students, parents, and teachers at your school who use social media apps each day. And, so far, social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to use. Free in that we are giving those companies our attention (and advertisers love our attention) in exchange for the ability to easily connect to content that matters to us. Still--it’s mostly free.

Control the Narrative
I remember requesting and getting permission from my vice principal back in 2011 to start a Facebook page for my high school. Now, the fact is that there was already a Facebook page about my school. But it was a parody page. If you Googled my school back in 2011, looking for our Facebook page, you would probably find the parody page instead.

What’s the problem with having inaccurate or incomplete information about your school online? It’s about having honest, fair representation for your school in the online world.

I’ve been working at El Cajon Valley High School since 2007. I love our students, and I love how hard the educators at my school work to help our students. I’m proud to work in such a supportive, creative, intelligent learning community. But back in 2011, our web presence didn’t reflect the amazing things that I knew were happening at my school. Building our social media presence has helped my school’s character get more accurately portrayed online. We have heart. We care for our community. We celebrate our diversity. It’s tough to get to know what we are about by driving past the front of our school or reviewing our test scores. Our social media use helps us share who we really are.

High school students holding flags from around the world.
Each year ECVHS celebrates Multicultural Week.
A week in which we express our Unity Through Diversity!

Tables filled with donations to refugees: clothing, diapers, etc.
Mr. Trammell sent ECVHS a call to action when he heard about the living conditions of
some refugees in our community. The ECVHS community responded with amazing generosity.

Share Ideas
A couple of years ago I was preparing part of a presentation on using Google Hangouts in the classroom. As luck would have it, I happened to be scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across this post by Franz Ruiz, who was teaching science at ECVHS at the time. He was having his students Skype with a classroom on the other side of the planet, and I had no idea. We worked at the same school, but we were in different departments. We didn’t get to talk shop much. Many of you know it can be challenging to find time to collaborate with fellow educators. But after seeing Franz’ post, I made sure to ask him about his project and how he got connected to educators in other countries. What other cool educational experiments are our fellow educators conducting just a few doors down the hall from us? Sharing those ideas on social media can help to cultivate innovation and collaboration.

Screenshot of a Twitter post showing students seated in desks with their laptops open, facing a video screen.
Mr. Ruiz was having his students Skype with students from another country,
and I probably wouldn't have found out about his cool educational
experiment if he wasn't sharing his ideas on Twitter.

Acknowledge the Hard Work of Colleagues
Some of my favorite posts are those that I get to make when I peek into a classroom and see students engaged in a fantastic learning activity. I don’t plan most of these classroom visits--I just happen to be walking by. And, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to visit all the classrooms on campus during classroom time (librarians lose their librarian powers if they spend too much time outside of the library--away from their books). It’s rewarding to be in a position where I get to notice more of what goes on in my school. I don’t get to see everything cool on campus, but I love sharing the cool things I do see with a wider audience.

 Screenshot of a Tweet that shows high school students working together on a poster project.
I walked into Mrs. Ward's class to help her with a Google Slides question,
and I couldn't help but notice her students deeply engaged in a collaborative poster project. 

Imagine the power of someone who does get to visit each class getting to share the positive things they see on social media. Perhaps an administrator. They visit each class, right? As a teacher, would you be okay with your administrator making a brief post online about what she saw in your classroom? I know my district has rules and procedures around official evaluations from administrators, but there has to be a way to make such posts. It would go a long way to acknowledge the great work of a school’s staff for administrators to share the positive things they see happening.

So, what’s your school’s social media presence like? Can it be better?

Anthony Devine

Anthony is the Teacher Librarian at El Cajon Valley High School (@ECVHS). You can find him on Twitter at @anthonyrdevine and @ecvhslibrary.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Electrify Explanations with Piktochart

Do you want to save time, money, and classroom wall space while addressing important common core standards? Of course you do! You can make this a reality with Piktochart, free web-based infographic creation tool.

Sample Piktochart Using Piktochart to Explain

An infographic describing the synthesis phase of the research process.
The Research Process as Synthesis,
created using Piktochart.
Most teachers are practiced and insightful explainers. Part of our job is to make things make sense when they don’t. We need to show relationships, bridge connections, and fill in the gaps, all in record amounts of time. By creating your own infographics with Piktochart, you can make difficult content more accessible and visually stimulating. Infographics can be shared on a class website, in Google Classroom, or on a blog for students to access at any time. Piktochart's “presentation mode” even allows you to view an infographic piece by piece, making Piktochart a souped up presentation tool to replace Google Slides or Microsoft Powerpoint. Want to see what we mean? Check out the Piktochart class syllabi featured on Piktochart's Education blog or this representation of the synthesis phase of the research process featured to the right.

Student Infographics and Common Core

Common Core literacy standards call for students to integrate visual and textual information in digital formats to express their understanding of relationships between complex ideas. Standards also suggest that digital media should be produced and published on the internet. So much more than just posters, infographics require the creator to find, interpret, and evaluate information. Infographics can come alive with images, icons, links, charts, maps, and videos that immerse the viewer in the content.
"Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words." CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7
Common Core Language Arts
Anchor Standard for Reading,
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. 

Getting Started with Piktochart

If you are already convinced this web tool is worthwhile, head over to and get started. With one-step signup, you can use Google credentials to quickly create a free account. Students at least thirteen years of age can sign up in the same fashion, without any additional permissions. Scroll down and select one of the free templates, and click create. Don’t worry if the template is largely unrelated to your content. All templates are fully customizable!
Save the progress you are making on your infographic as you go, and come back at any time to continue working. Once you are finished, you have the option to download your work as a JPEG or PNG, publish it and share with a link, share it to social media like Twitter or Google+, or even secure the embed code to insert it into a website. For step-by-step video tutorials, visit the Piktochart YouTube channel.

Resources and Examples

Still need ideas? Check out some of the sample Piktocharts I’ve rounded up below, or visit the Featured Piktochart Gallery to see infographics created by users around the world.

Imagine your students are collecting data related to your content. The data could be observations and calculations from an experiment, dates from a historical event, or even evidence from a text. Students painstakingly collect information, draw insightful conclusions, and identify relationships. The problem is, these relationships and conclusions are stuck inside their heads. We want them to share, we want other students in the class to understand what they are sharing, and we want to be able to read it. Here's where Piktochart comes in. The easy (and did we mention FREE) interface makes creating and sharing professional quality explanatory masterpieces a breeze.

Lisha Brunache

Lisha Brunache currently serves as Ed Tech Specialist, on special assignment from her high school humanities teaching position at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, CA. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and a Leading Edge Digital Educator. Lisha Brunache, an Educational Technology Specialist (TOSA) at San Marcos Unified School District, is a former high school English and Social Science teacher with a passion for technology and creativity. Lisha is a Google for Education Certified Trainer, a Leading Edge Digital Educator, and holds an M.A. from San Diego State University in Learning Design and Technology. Find her on Twitter @LishaBrunache.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seesaw: A Teacher’s Best Friend

You’re probably thinking, “She’s exaggerating! How can an app by my best friend?” I got your attention, right? But trust me on this one, you are going to want to read about this AMAZING app called Seesaw.

What is Seesaw?
Seesaw is a FREE app (yes, I did say FREE) that you can use with your students. The Seesaw app works on all devices; ipads, Kindles, Chromebooks, desktops and tablets. Seesaw is a digital portfolio app that collects all your students’ digital work in one place. It can also be thought of as a learning journal for your students. If you are a visual  learners, think “whiteboard app” + “Facebook”. And when I say “Facebook” I do not mean your students are on Facebook and interacting with the public. It reminds me of Facebook because of the set up; the use of a feed and the ability for students to interact with each other. Another bonus- it has a way to connect with parents!   

So, how do my students use it?
Once your students sign in to your class, they can post an item. They have a choice of six items to choose from. They can add a drawing, take a picture, select a picture from their camera roll, post a note, select an item from their google drive or add a link.

This is the menu for posting items in Seesaw for both students and teachers.
This is the menu for posting items in Seesaw for both students and teachers.  Photo Credit:
Once they choose one, they can interact with it different ways; they can record over it, add labels or a caption. One example of the powerful use of Seesaw is using it as a tool to capture communicating reasoning. At my school, teachers love using the drawing tool with their students during math number talks. A teacher will post a number talk or a problem of the day. The students will then use the drawing tool to work out their math problem. Once completed, the students can label their math work and record their thinking and how they came to their answer.   When the student is finished with their work, their item will wait approval by you and will post to the class feed once it’s approved. But wait, it gets better...the students can then respond to each other’s work on the feed (think Facebook). Students learning and responding to each other about their thinking.  

How do I use it as a teacher?
Once you sign up, there are three ways to get your students to populate your class; one is to type each student’s name in or you can do a copy and paste from a class list. I make this suggestion for my primary teachers (kinder and first) because typing in a code can be a challenge with the littles. Another way is to have your student type in a code when they sign up for Seesaw. They do not have to keep putting in the code to join your class when they sign in, it’s a one time thing. Or, your students scan a QR code.  Seesaw has a built in QR code reader in their app and will generate a QR code for you when you select “QR code”. Once your students add items, you will need to approve these items just in case there is something not appropriate.  You will get notifications when students add items. It will be a red bubble at the top of your app or by your name on the desktop.

Alerts when students add items.
Alerts when students add items.
Seesaw will alert you when your students add items. 124! Whoa! I have this many because I’m added in two colleagues classes, which leads me to our next discussion.

What else does Seesaw do?
I’m so glad you asked! Through Seesaw, you can create a class blog. This is a great way to connect with other classrooms around the world; talk about your high level SAMR skills! According to Angela Gadtke, community lead at Seesaw, Seesaw is being used in 100 countries! This is a great and safe way to have your students and you connect with other classrooms in other countries. You can also join other classes as a teacher. You can also post announcements and as mentioned above, you can connect with parents. Parents will only see their student’s work and will get notifications when their students add items (only after you approve them of course!). Teachers also have the ability to send out private messages to parents.

One more thing - Seesaw Plus
Seesaw Plus is an assessment tool that is an added feature that is not free.  You do not need buy Seesaw Plus to use Seesaw.  With Seesaw Plus, teachers are able to identify student journal items by tagging them with a skill, very similar to report card grading. This allows you to see progress made in standards and goals. Other features include making private notes and posts. The good news is that when you sign up, you can try Seesaw Plus for a month! When you go to your account settings, scroll until you see Manage Seesaw Plus. Click on activate and you will have Seesaw Plus for a month.  

Seesaw is being used in 200,000 classrooms at 25,000 schools (; some districts have purchased Seesaw for Schools for their teachers. When a district purchases this for their teachers, all teachers have access to Seesaw Plus.  

See! I told you this was your new best friend! There are so many other cool things to learn about Seesaw but I had a word limit for this blog. It is very user-friendly and Seesaw has great tech support; you can do webinars if you’d like to learn more about Seesaw.  They have great ideas that teachers have used with Seesaw on Twitter @Seesaw and Facebook Seesaw Teachers.  So what are you waiting for?  Go check out Seesaw!

Melissa Monroe

Melissa Monroe is a Seesaw Ambassador and teaches second grade in Oceanside, California.  She was previously an Educational Technology TOSA for two years providing support for teachers with implementing technology.  Melissa has taught 11 years, working with all grades K-8th.  Her passion for helping teachers with technology has extended to district-level professional learning opportunities as well as the National CUE and SDCUE.  You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelissaMonroeNT.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Using Canva in Your Classroom and Beyond

Screenshot of the Canva homescreen
Canva can be accessed via the web or apps. This is the
homescreen once you log into your account. 
As educators, our messages are in constant competition with the world around us. From inboxes to social media feeds, how do we stand out in the barrage of information and images that our stakeholders receive? A 2012 UC San Diego study found that the average person processes 34 gigabytes of information a day! So if our minds were laptops, that would be enough for us to overload within a week. As the Director of Communications for the Poway Unified School District, my job is to cut through the clutter, convey important messages on behalf of the District, and make sure they stick. I wanted to share my favorite tool for accomplishing that, and show you how you can use it in your classroom and beyond.

Flyer for our new Foreign Language Program in Mandarin.
Flyer for our new Foreign Language Program
in Mandarin.
Invitation for our LCAP Community Forum.

Invitation for our LCAP Community Forum.
I was introduced to Canva at the CalSPRA conference for school public relations professionals. (Yes, we get our very own association!) Canva is a FREE online program that allows users to create beautiful graphic designs using templates in an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop platform. It is web-based with apps for iPads and Chromebooks. Canva is one of the most powerful visual communication and teaching tools I’ve come across due to its simplicity, accessibility, and did I mention it’s free?

Canva can be accessed via the web or apps, with templates on the left and your working project on the right.

I had no previous design experience. (Unless you count being the yearbook editor in high school.) Luckily for me, Canva works much like a digital scrapbook does: you pick a layout, upload photos, and customize the fonts and colors. Once you select a template, you can create a project in minutes. Not sure how to get started? No problem! Canva provides tutorials even for the total novice.

With Canva, there are no more boring newsletters, flyers, posters, invitations, brochures, presentations, or social media posts. Everything I create comes with eye-popping and modern colors, fonts, images, and designs. Once your project is complete, you can download the finished design as an image or a PDF.

The result? My communications now have a much more polished, professional look. This, in turns, attracts my audience to click, engage, or share. A visual representation of information is more likely to grab readers’ attention than text alone. In fact, Facebook reports an 87% engagement for photos and graphics on Facebook as opposed to the 13% engagement for all other types of shared information.

I knew I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for Canva. In fact, I had a Canva addict living right in my own home! My 10-year-old daughter surprised me one day by showing me an infographic she was creating on the water cycle as part of her report on climatology.

Part of my daughter’s water cycle infographic
Part of my daughter's water cycle infographic.
The possibilities are endless. In my son’s class, students created brochures to market their products for a “Shark Tank” competition. In yet another, ASB officers made invitations to their graduation ceremony. I truly believe that teaching our students how to be effective visual communicators is essential to preparing them for their future careers. Yet it’s one of those “soft skills” that will often get overlooked or taken for granted. And teachers need not be experts in order to incorporate this into their curriculum. Trust me: the students will take to it intuitively. Need some inspiration? Check out 13 Ways to Use Canva in Your Classroom or 7 Creative Student Design Projects to Try with Canva.

You can also click this link to check out some of Canva’s teaching materials. What makes it even more classroom friendly is that Canva is a cloud-based collaborative tool that you can use with others. You have the ability to create a design and send an editable design for feedback or approval. You can also send a design for viewing on the Canva site without the ability to edit.

I’ve also shown principals, PTA groups, and foundations how to use Canva to create attractive flyers and invitations for their meetings and fundraisers, which they can distribute electronically via Peachjar. The response is always the same: “Wow, I can’t believe how easy this is. And it looks SO good!” So I encourage you to give it a try, you’ll soon be wondering what took you so long.
An example of the tri-fold brochures we made for each of our schools, using Canva.
An example of a tri-fold brochure we made for each of
our schools, using Canva.

 An example of the tri-fold brochures we made for each of our schools, using Canva.
An example of a tri-fold brochure we made for each of
our schools, using Canva.

Christine Paik

Christine Headshot.JPGChristine Paik is the Director of Communications for the Poway Unified School District. She joined #TeamPUSD in January 2016 where she has taken on the role of “Storyteller in Chief.” Since her arrival, she has overseen and implemented multiple projects to increase employee morale and District pride, including a new newsletter, redesigned website, marketing videos, as well as positive social media and news coverage of students, schools, and staff. As a former college lecturer, Christine enjoys working with young broadcast students within PUSD; she recently started an internship for high school digital media students in partnership with the Career Technical Education department. Christine has two young children who attend PUSD schools. She moved to San Diego from Fresno, where she was an Emmy-winning news anchor and reporter for 15 years for ABC. You can follow Christine on Instagram (@SchoolPRMom) or Twitter (@ChristinePaik).

Friday, August 4, 2017

Present at the San Diego CUE Tech Fair 2017!

Nanci Minicozzi speaking at SDCUE Tech Fair
Nanci Minicozzi speaking at SDCUE Tech Fair
The first time I presented at a San Diego CUE Tech Fair was in a classroom at CSU San Marcos. My topic was Google Hangouts, which had recently been released. I had prepared slides with screenshots on how to use the tools and all the functions. I had arranged with a colleague in northern California to join us remotely to demonstrate it. As the attendees filed in and my session started, I opened Google Hangouts to find… that Google had completely changed the interface literally the previous day. I believe I said something like, “I’ve never seen this screen before.” After a few moments of confusion, I said to the group, “OK, we’re all going to learn this together.” And we did! Comments from the group and evaluations at the end were positive, so I think the attendees learned something. I certainly did!

If you have anything that you think is cool that you’d like to share with others, San Diego CUE Tech Fair is the place to do it. Apply to present a session, either on your own or with a partner. The experience you gain will be invaluable.

Attendees at SDCUE Tech Fair 2016
Attendees at SDCUE Tech Fair 2016
But Kevin, I don’t have anything new to share. Everyone else already knows what I know.” - Nope. Every Tech Fair has hundreds of attendees for whom it is their first EdTech conference. You have experience that they don’t!

But Kevin, I’m not good at speaking in front of a group.” - OK, fair statement. But (a) if you’re a teacher, you do this every day, just with kids rather than adults. You could ask the adults in your session to act childish, if you like. (b) So don’t make it a “speaking” session with you in the front. Make it a hands-on, student-centered, activity-based session. And (c) the only way to get better at speaking in front of a group is to practice, and Tech Fair is a great place to practice!

“But Kevin, if I present in one timeslot, I won’t be able to go to other sessions then.” - True enough. However, I guarantee that you’ll learn from the people who attend your session as much as you would have learned in someone else’s session. Also, being selected to present means you get a free registration, and get to attend all the other timeslots for free. If you’re scheduled opposite a session you really want to attend, arrange to meet the other presenter at lunch and talk about your respective sessions!

San Diego CUE Tech Fair is coming up on November 4. Registration for attendees will open this week, when we reveal the new host site! Submit your speaker application with this form!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Back to School Device Boot Camp

As summer break comes to a close, many teachers have already begun to think about the upcoming school year. Decorating classrooms, planning lessons, and searching for “first week of school” activities on Pinterest are a few things that teachers begin working on during the final weeks of vacation. If you will have technology (iPads, Chromebooks, etc.) in your classroom, you should also be thinking about how you will introduce those devices to your students. As a classroom teacher, I always liked to plan a “Boot Camp” during the first week of school to introduce my new students to the device that they would be using for the school year. The following post will include a few things to consider when introducing devices to your new class, as well as what I, personally, like to include in a device boot camp.

A Few Things to Consider
Before school begins, and you are planning your first week activities, consider the following questions regarding the devices that your students will be using. Even better, discuss these questions in your grade level planning time so that you and your teammates are on the same pages as far as expectations for devices.
  • How will you label and store the devices in your classroom? Will devices be numbered? Or will the student’s name(s) be on the device somewhere?
  • How will the charging procedure go? Will there be a class job for collecting and plugging in the device? Will devices be charged every night? Or only when needed?
  • Is there a device “acceptable use” agreement/policy for your school site or district? If not, will you create a contract between you, the student, and the parents that outlines what is and is not allowed? Here is an example of a contract I created from my students several years ago. What will be the consequence for a student breaking that agreement?
  • What are your expectations for students downloading/using specific apps? Will you give specific guidelines for using the camera on the device? Will students be allowed to change the background/wallpaper? How will you focus on digital citizenship lessons and activities?
  • Will your students be taking home their device? If so, what will happen if a student forgets his/her device or brings it to school with a dead battery?

What to Include in Your Device Boot Camp
During the first 1-2 weeks of the school year, I take my new students through a very detailed device boot camp. Here are some areas that I address during my device boot camp.
  • Explain the very basic functions of the device, including turning it on/off, power save mode, home screen, organizing folders, camera usage, screen brightness, volume, wifi, etc. When you explain these things to your new class, you will quickly see which of your students are familiar with the device and which are not. This will help you find your helpers who can troubleshoot device issues for their classmates (and sometimes for their teacher too).
  • Discuss device care with your students. Model how to carry the device and how to plug it in. If students will be using headphones, model how the headphone jack should be used. How about USB ports? Describe how to plug something into a USB port the correct way.
  • Explain the DOs and DON’Ts of using the device in great detail. Here are some that I like to include in my device boot camp. I also like to have these posted in the classroom somewhere.
    • Put the device to sleep when not in use.
    • Practice Digital Citizenship while using your device at school (or at home). The free resources from Common Sense Education are some of my favorite lessons!
    • Think of your device as a tool for learning, not a toy for entertainment.
    • Use common sense with your device.
    • Use your device to be creative, collaborate with others, communicate, and for critical thinking.
    • Remember that your device is school property and a teacher/administrator can look through your device at any time.
    • Use your device camera, unless instructed by your teacher.
    • Open an App or website, unless instructed by your teacher.
    • Attempt to log in to your school device with a personal account.
    • Try to download or delete apps, unless instructed by your teacher
    • Use your device to send inappropriate comments, photos, or for cyberbullying.
  • Include some fun “get to know you” type activities in the device boot camp. Let students practice using the device for fun, so that they become familiar with the apps that you will be using throughout the year. For example, take selfie and and type a few sentences about themselves, respond to a flipgrid prompt, post something in seesaw, create a Google slide deck as a class, etc. Start with one or two apps, then build from there. You could even do an “App of the Day” for the first couple weeks, to familiarize your students with the tools they will be using throughout the year.

Incorporating a device boot camp in your “first week of school” plans might seem overwhelming. However, in my experience, setting clear expectations with technology at the beginning of the year saves time later, and also sets students up for success. So, as you plan those team building activities, laminate homework folders, and create colorful name tags, I hope you will also plan for a device boot camp for the upcoming school year.

Heather Love-Fleck, SDCUE Innovative TOSA 2017

Heather Love-Fleck is an EdTech TOSA for Oceanside Unified School District. She provides support in the area of educational technology, helping teachers and students implement tech as a tool for meeting learning objectives. Heather has been teaching for 10 years, working with students in grades K-8. She shares her innovative classroom ideas with colleagues by presenting at district-level professional learning opportunities, as well as larger conferences, such as the National CUE and SDCUE Tech Fair. Heather was selected as the SDCUE Innovative TOSA for 2017. She shares her EdTech ideas and classroom lessons on her blog and on Twitter @mrslovefleck.