Wiss21 Boot Camp

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The second day of school is always an exciting one at Wissahickon Middle School, for that’s the day that about 1,200 students receive their Wiss21 laptops and begin or continue their journey through the challenging yet exhilarating wilds of 21st Century Teaching and Learning.  As sixth grade is the first year that the students are issued a laptop that is theirs and theirs alone that they can use in school and at home, not only do they receive their laptops on the second day of school, but WMS 6th graders begin the first of several sessions of what we lovingly call ‘Boot Camp’, otherwise known as computer orientation.   Read on to learn how Wissahickon School District trains the “troops” to be responsible digital citizens who not only use their computer efficiently and effectively for their schoolwork, but also to be problem solvers and assistants to their fellow students and teachers.

Wiss21 Resource Guide

Before getting into the schedule and content of sessions, it is important to mention the “Wiss21 Resource Guide”.  The Guide is a OneNote Notebook provided to all WMS students and teachers that serves as a type of manual for their computers and the Wiss21 initiative, as well as other goodies such as the WMS Handbook and other school-related topics.  As this notebook is a view-only notebook living on our district’s SharePoint server, content can be added to the Guide at any time that automatically shows up for the students.  In it there are many helpful sections and pages for students, including Quick Reference, Office 365, Creativity Tools, Boot Camp, Digital Portfolio and more…

6th Grade Wiss21 Resource Guide 2015

6th Grade Wiss21 Resource Guide 2015

Boot Camp Session #1 – Computer Orientation

As previously mentioned, students receive their computers on the second day of school. The 6th graders receive their computers first so that they can attend computer orientation later in the day.  That day, during either their science or social studies class (or sometimes both!) the students attend their first Boot Camp session that provides just enough instruction for them to get acquainted with their computers, get the Wiss21 Resource Guide, and learn a bit about OneNote, Outlook, where and how to save files, etc.  The entire lesson is outlined in the Wiss21 Guide and is taught by team teachers who have stepped up to the plate to conduct the orientation.

Session #1 Agenda

Boot Camp Session #1 Agenda

After the second day of school, students are free to take the computers home and use them in classes.  Teachers continue to orient the students to the computers and although some were a bit hesitant during the first few years, the teachers are becoming more and more comfortable with the use of the computers and guiding their students in their procedures and expectations with the laptops.

Boot Camp Session #2 –  Office 365, OneNote & Digital Portfolios

Fast forward to the second week of school.  During this time, all 6th grade students come to the library for two hours to continue with Boot Camp.  During this time, students are taught by me, the Instructional Technology Specialist.  When we embarked on the Wiss21 initiative, we knew that teachers should not be expected to teach all aspect of the computers to their students.  After all, they aren’t computer teachers, they are Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, etc teachers.  Therefore, Boot Camp was created and is continually taught by me.  Because I am the one teaching it, I have the ability to change the content from year to year to fit the most current needs and technology in the district.   For example, this year we are embarking on Office 365 as a district so I am including it in our time together as well as having the students create their portfolio OneNotes on OneDrive instead of on their computers as we’ve done in the past

Sessions #2 and #3 are taught together during these two hours, covering the topics below.  As it was for Session #1, all the information and additional helpful tutorials are included in the Wiss21 Guide.

Boot Camp Sessions #2 & #3

Boot Camp Sessions #2 & #3

This year, I created a Sway for this part of Boot Camp to guide our time together.  Check it out below or at this link here!

This second session of Boot Camp focuses on the creation of what will become their Digital Portfolios to which they will add artifacts and reflections of their learning throughout not only 6th grade, but 7th and 8th grade as well.   As they learn about the Digital Portfolio project and its expectations and requirements, students are also learning how to create and share documents through Office 365 and the basic ins and outs of the program they will use the most – OneNote.    We get their entire Portfolio template set up together and they begin working on their “About Me” page by adding fancy text, images that represent their hobbies, etc.  If you are interested in learning more about our Digital Portfolio project and to see student examples, visit this link.

Digital Portfolio Overview

Digital Portfolio Overview

Boot Camp Session #3 – Digital Citizenship

The second hour of our time together during the second week of school we discuss Digital Citizenship.  Although this part of the lesson has also evolved over the years, I always want to start out with asking them what they already know.  We put the technology aside for a few minutes and the students discuss what they already know about Digital Citizenship, online safety, privacy, copyright, etc., first with each other in small groups, then all together as a larger group.  As the years progress, I’m pleased to find out that the students already know quite a bit that they’ve learned from parents, previous teachers, etc. but am also surprised at some of the gaps and/or misconceptions.

What is Digital Citizenship?

What is Digital Citizenship?

From there, we watch a video from InCtrl called Living in a Digital World and discuss it.

Then, just as the students are getting a bit ancy for being with me for 1.5 hours and talking about some heavy topics, we jump into this game of Kahoot!  to really hit home some of the more important aspects of Digital Citizenship.  I stop the game after each question and discuss the reasons why.  I love teaching this topic this way because I get to see their prior knowledge on EVERY question, and then address the incorrect answers to broaden knowledge and squash misconceptions.  Needless to say, the students LOVE it and even debate some of the answers!  (BTW, if you don’t know about Kahoot! You need to!  Check it out here.)

Digital Citizenship with Kahoot!

Digital Citizenship with Kahoot!

After the game, we end our Digital Citizenship lesson with logging into our Digital Passports.  As the topic of Digital Citizenship is very large, there is no way that just an hour can justify the learning that needs to occur.  Therefore, the students are all required to log into their Digital Passports and earn a badge on all five of the games to be certified Digital Citizens!  They have the entire first marking period to complete their Digital Passports and they receive a grade in their Social Studies class for not just completion, but accurate completion higher than 80% on all games.  The Digital Passport comes from Common Sense Media and although it is recommended for elementary school, is VERY much appropriate for middle school and includes videos and scenarios for the middle school age group.  The students are very motivated by the gamified aspect of the Digital Passport and often play the games even after they’ve earned their badges.

Boot Camp Session #4  – Productivity Tools and #5 – Creativity Tools

After their two hours with me in the library, the students continue their Boot Camp training on Productivity Tools (Office Suite mostly) and Creativity Tools (MovieMaker, SongSmith, Google Earth, SMART Notebook, Sway, etc.) in other classes.  The Science teachers take care of the productivity tools through a unit on weather during the second marking period through which students must track the weather of an adopted city, use Excel to make graphs, create a presentation with PowerPoint, etc.  The Math teachers conduct the creativity tools section of Boot Camp by having their students create review lessons, videos, games, etc. for the Midterm and Final exams.  And lastly, all 6th graders have a class called “iSkills”, either during the fall or spring semester, during which they examine the ISTE Standards for Students and dig deeper into technology integration and 21st Century Learning.

Boot Camp to be Continued

Boot Camp to be Continued

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of how Wissahickon School District provides computer orientation and training for the 6th graders, can you understand why we call it “Boot Camp”?

How does your school or district orient your students to their devices?  I’d love to hear how other people do it.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Top 5 Back-to-School Tools for Creation, Collaboration and Communication

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Along with the preparation of bulletin boards, seating charts, classroom procedures and syllabi, it is also important for teachers to consider the go-to digital tools and resources they will rely upon as they head into the school year.  The five tools and resources outlined below can be utilized by teachers and students in many different classroom settings, grade levels and subject areas for creation, communication, collaboration, and so much more.

Tool #1 – OneNote & OneNote Class Notebook

To maximize efficiency and rise to the top of the class in organization, consider using OneNote (free to download for any device) and the OneNote Class Notebook as the backbone of your digital life. Teachers can deliver engaging and interactive content easily and efficiently to their students and students can complete work by typing, annotating text, inserting images, linking notes, drawing with digital ink, etc.  With Class Notebook through Office 365, teachers have immediate access to all student work and can provide on-going, detailed and specific feedback to each student privately, through text, ink, audio or video recording.  Class Notebooks also have a Collaboration Space through which all students and teachers with access to that notebook can collaborate, communicate and create together.  OneNote really IS the ultimate classroom tool!

class notebook

Example of a Class Notebook

collaboration space

Collaboration Space

Be sure to check out http://onenoteforteachers.com to learn about OneNote and its use in school, and don’t forget – OneNote is free on all devices!  http://OneNote.com

Tool #2 – Office Mix

It is easy to flip, blend, individualize and differentiate instruction with Office Mix. Although Office Mix is an excellent tool for any classroom, many educators believe it is THE ANSWER for the flipped or blended learning environment.  This free add-in to PowerPoint allows teachers and students to enhance and amplify their presentations by adding interactivity and engagement through voice and screen recording, digital ink annotation, embedding videos and polling. Content creation and delivery is not only easy and efficient, but highly motivating to the end users – the students!  Also remember, it’s not just for teachers!  Students too can get “in the mix” to demonstrate their learning or teach a new concept to their classmates – and ask questions of them to see if they were listening!  To get Office Mix visit http://mix.office.com and to learn more about using it in your classroom visit http://mixforteachers.com.

Office Mix Toolbar

Office Mix Toolbar

Check out this great video for an introduction and step-by-step guide on how to create your first Office Mix.

Tool #3 – Sway

Are you ready to Sway?  In just minutes, teachers and students can create stunning visual presentations with a unique web URL that can be easily shared for viewing or collaboration.  By adding interactive content such as photos, videos, audio files, Twitter feeds, charts, documents and maps, students can easily demonstrate their learning and present their thoughts and ideas without having to spend a lot of time on design.  As each Sway has its own unique web address, it can be used for a variety of items in the teaching and learning environment including delivery of content, demonstration of learning, but also for communication such as blogging, parent newsletters, student publications, faculty updates, etc.


A Sway in Edit Mode

Learn about the “Sway Way” below:

Don’t miss the new Sway tutorial videos and start Swaying today!

Tool #4 – Skype

How have you connected your classroom with the world?  With Skype and Skype in the Classroom, it is easier than ever to connect your students with other teachers, classrooms, experts and projects to help break down the walls of your classroom to bring the world in.  Not sure where to start? Play Mystery Skype with another classroom from somewhere around the world.  It is a fun and easy way to get started with Skype and providing global opportunities for your students.

Tool #5 – Microsoft Educator Network

Learning and using tools and resources from tutorials and websites is an awesome way to be a lifelong learner, but learning from and with others is the true hallmark of a 21st century educator.  The Microsoft Educator network provides today’s educators access to a plethora of resources including hot topics blogs, discussion communities, professional development courses, quick tip videos, tutorials, learning activities and opportunities for educators.  In addition to all that, the Educator Network also provides access to a host of FREE Microsoft tools & resources and the Bing in the Classroom daily lesson plans based on the Bing image of the day.  Join the Educator Network today!

Microsoft Educator Network

Microsoft Educator Network


5 Tips to Get Off to a Great Start & Avoid Back-to-School Burnout

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Back-to-school is an exhilarating time full of hope and excitement for a new school year for teachers and students alike.  But, those first few weeks are also exhausting!  Check out the tips below to be sure to start the year off right to keep yourself sane and avoid burnout.

Tip #1 – Start Off Organized

Nothing is worse than not being able to find what you need.  Knowing where things are stored so they can be easily found is essential.  By using OneNote, teachers can easily have lesson plans, class documents and presentations, emails, parent contact information and more at their fingertips.  Inserting text, images, files, audio & video is easy with just a few clicks and the OneNote Clipper allows you to seamlessly clip items directly from your Internet browser into OneNote.  And with OneNote’s amazing search functions, information can be found quickly and easily.

Tip #2 – Get Rest & Hydrate

The beginning of the school year is always a hectic time for everyone and sometimes the best-laid plans get scrapped almost as soon as things get started.  Being well-rested can help you better handle all the twists and turns that the start of the year bring.  In addition to rest, it is important to always drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated.  Dehydration leads to even more exhaustion, so be sure to load up on the H2O and get plenty of shut-eye to keep your brain sharp and fresh.

Tip #3 – Communicate Early & Often

To avoid stress and confusion down the road, start the year off with open lines of communication. As a teacher, communication comes in many forms – with colleagues, administrators, students, parents – and it is important to communicate effectively with all of them.

  • Colleagues – Communicate and collaborate with colleagues by sharing ideas for lesson plans, tips and tricks, tools and resources, etc. Why should teachers who teach the same curricula and grade level plan in isolation?  Use tools like OneNote and Skype to easily collaborate and communicate with colleagues.
  • Parents & Students – Opening the lines of communication with parents early-on is essential to not only provide them with pertinent information for your classroom, but also to introduce yourself and show them you are a real person! Consider creating a class newsletter using Sway to not only introduce yourself, but keep parents and students updated with your class throughout the year.
  • Administrators – In addition to email and face-to-face meetings, you can easily collaborate with colleagues and keep in touch with your administrators by using a OneNote Staff Notebook.

Tip #4 – Take Time for Family, Friends & Laughter

As they say, all work and no play is a bad combination.  Although the first few weeks of school tend to be work-focused, make sure to set aside time each day to spend with the people who mean the most to you.  And not only that, take time to laugh.  Laugh with your loved ones and enjoy the time with them.  And most importantly, allow yourself to laugh at the craziness that is back-to-school and enjoy what you do.  Laugher really is the best medicine.

Tip #5 – Persevere

Remember that without the terrible days, we would not be able to recognize the great ones.  No one is perfect.  If something didn’t work today, reflect on why, learn from it, and try something different next time.  Tomorrow is new day, a better day. Use resources such as the Microsoft Educator Network to expand your professional learning community beyond your school and district and to access a plethora of tools, tips, tutorials, discussions and more.  Keep at it and continue to take risks in your classroom so that you can be your very best for those who matter the most – the students!

Special thanks to my friend and colleague Sue Ramondo for her ideas and insight.

Blogs and Wikis and Docs – OH MY!

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If you are just getting into the Web 2.0 world and are unsure what these terms mean or are already a user of all 3, there is always the question of – which resource is best for what??

Enter this awesome comparison chart! I stumbled upon this today and thought it was awesome, so check it out to find out which resource – Blogs, Wikis and/or Docs – are right for you and your students!


Dig into Diigo

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This morning at the Keystone Technology Integrators Summit I am presenting “Dig into Diigo“.  As I’ve previously posted, many of the sessions at this year’s summit are virtual, and you can join in on the presentation from any computer with Internet access, either through the KTI wiki, the presentation page, or right here, below!  Come join me!

Session Recording: