Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Resolution: 3 Ways to Cut Back on Digital Distractions

It's the end of 2014, and time to make your New Year's Resolutions. I've been making resolutions for years and use the annual event as a time to enact some personal changes. This year, one of my resolutions for 2015 is to cut back on digital distractions.

UPDATE 2018: Instead of the Moment and Checky apps mentioned in the next paragraph, use Apple Screen Time or Google Well Being instead.

Back in October George Couros tweeted out a link to a great blog in the NYTimes entitled Trying to Live in the Moment and Not on My iPhone by Jenna Wortham about using apps like Moment* and Checky to track one's personal iPhone use (total number of minutes per day and number of times per day). I found it intriguing and asked him if he was going to try it, because I was afraid to do so. He agreed.  
I can relate this Liam F. Walsh New Yorker cartoon! Image Source

It took me another two months to get around to giving it a try, but I finally have. It's been fascinating to see my own stats and compare my totals day to day. 

Data is powerful, especially when it's personal.

As an earlier article in Mashable by Seth Fiegerman stated, data is powerful, especially when it's personal. Being confronted with these daily totals about my screen time has caused me to reflect quite a bit lately. The totals that I'm confronted with from these two apps have also caused me to think about what I didn't do because I was looking at a screen. Time spent talking with others, being with my family, looking up, listening, being outside...  all things I used to do more of before having constant access to a screen and the Internet. I'm glad I finally took the time to install both of these apps, and encourage you to do so, too.  

Say No to Nocializing 

Back in July at the Minnesota iPad Palooza, keynote speaker Carl Hooker mentioned an urban dictionary term called Nocializing and something he called the Digital Yawn, both which stuck with me.  Simply put, nocializing spending time on your mobile device rather then paying attention to the people around you. A digital yawn is the moment in a group when one person pulls out a device to look at it's screen, resulting in the rest doing the same. Carl mentioned that at restaurants with friends, they often stack their phones facedown in a pile to see who can go the longest without using their phone and whoever gives in has to pay the bill.  He mentioned another version of this where the phones remain face up and whichever one dings/vibrates first with a notification has to pay the bill...  I still haven't tried either of these techniques...

App badges create a FOMO.

Another one of the changes I made was to turn off almost all notifications on my iPhone and iPad, two of the devices I spend a lot of time on daily. I've turned off badges and all push notifications for email, Twitter, Facebook, Weather, NHL, and every other app on my device except iMessage and Phone. I actually did this a couple months ago.  I had found that the badges, such as those pictured above, tempted me to open each app and see what I was missing, which is exactly what I suppose they are designed to do. They create a FOMO I suppose. But I've discovered that each of these badges became a distraction and added stress to my life. They added pressure that is unnecessary, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in feeling this way.  

I'd encourage you to try this out, too. Your new emails, Tweets, sports scores, Facebook notifications, and everything else will still be there. But now you can access them on your schedule when you want, versus having them disrupt your life and distract you every time you turn on your device! (Just the number of times I used to unlock my phone for one task and instantly get distracted by some other app, often even forgetting what I had unlocked my phone for in the first place has decreased greatly.) I've been noticing how my own children get distracted by their notifications on devices, and hope to help them learn early how to manage their digital distractions, too.  I think balancing and managing digital distraction and learning to focus are valuable new life skills that we can help our children and students acquire.

I'd love to hear your ideas for cutting back on digital distraction, too, so please share!

For more reflections on digital distractions, please see an earlier post on Crazy Busy: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul, a great read by Kevin DeYoung.  

A recent article about Albert Einstein's need for space for solitude and self-reflection by Paul Halpern is intriguing.  Einstein knew the value of time free of distractions. 

*I saw some reviews about Moment burning up your battery since it uses GPS location services, but so far haven't seen this become too big of a problem.  The creator, Kevin Holesh, was quick to respond to my email inquiry for a free family account which I will try out.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Christmas Ed Tech Moonshot Wish

Two weeks ago at the Minnesota TIES State Technology Conference when I co-presented with Jen Hegna, Director of Information and Learning Technology for Byron Public Schools, on 1:1 Professional Development: Beyond Year One, we ended our presentation by sharing our dreams for the future or "Moonshots" (think Google 10X Thinking). With Christmas a few days away, I figured a posting my My Christmas Ed Tech Moonshot Wish was fitting:

A marriage between Apple and Google.  

Imagine an ed tech world where products and programs from both companies worked seamlessly. (Cue John Lennon soundtrack if you wish.) Take the best of both and merge them together. Google Apps for Education fully functioning on a iPad tablet. No separation between platforms or operating systems. A Chromebook iPad, putting to rest the questions about "Which is better?" All the billions of dollars of both companies working together for the good of all... just imagine! It's easy if you try. All the innovative projects in each company's pipeline functioning with one another- wearing your Apple Watch with Google Glasses riding in your Google Driverless Car designed by Apple...  

So Santa, I know, it's a long shot and at lot to ask. But only a moonshot! Please?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tip #2 for a Successful 1:1 Implementation: Differentiate Teacher Training

Last week at the Minnesota TIES State Technology Conference, Jen Hegna, Director of Information and Learning Technology for Byron Public Schools, and I presented on 1:1 Professional Development: Beyond Year One. Our presentation slides can be found here. Preparing for a presentation is always a good time to analyze and reflect on current practices as you figure out what to highlight and share. Working with someone from another district is a great way to learn about other options and compare notes.

Too often failed 1:1 implementations make headlines for a lack of planning, including professional development.  Well planned and sustained professional development is a key component of a successful 1:1 program.  Budgeting PD funding and staff not only for the initial roll out year but the years to come is essential.  Better yet, begin the PD a year or more ahead of the implementation!

The training should be relevant, frequent, and differentiated.  In Minnetonka, we have found great success with small group meetings held before/during/after school.  Sometimes teachers meet by grade levels and subjects, and other times by ability and interest.  Providing teachers with opportunities to connect, collaborate, and brainstorm ideas has advanced the level of technology integration we see on a daily basis in our 1:1 program.  We schedule these half-day sessions in August and two to three additional times during the school year, depending on the number of years of experience teachers have. Each of our teachers will receive about nine hours total of training this year, an amount that has decreased quite a bit from four years ago when iPad were so new to everyone--back then it was six full days during the first year!  

Building on our tradition of successful large group professional development trainings during our first years of 1:1, we have implemented a differentiated training model by listening to teacher feedback and working with building administration.  With the integration of 1:1 iPads we found that our training methods had to evolve to better meet the varied needs of all our teachers. In addition, we wanted the training to provide a way to model better practices of classroom integration.  

Over the years, our staff trainings moved away from the stand and deliver format to a more interactive approach that gives teachers opportunity to self pace while learning how to use new technology.  This model also frees the instructor to take on a facilitator and coaching role and better help all user abilities in the same training. Our teachers take part in numerous training sessions throughout the year where they meet, collaborate, and learn with one another to better implement the technology into their classrooms. Teachers on Special Assignment for Instructional Technology (Tech TOSAs) and Media Specialists work closely with their colleagues to integrate technology into all curricular areas, including art, music, business, health, physical education, special education, family and consumer science, media, as well as all core areas. For our teachers with a year or more of experience, a flexible model has been created as illustrated in the flow chart below. Teachers get to choose how they want to spend a third of their PD time, giving them more buy in and ownership of their learning.

They can choose to observe their colleagues teaching for an hour, work one on one with a Tech Coach, meet in a small group of their choosing, or attend a before school session on a topic of their choice. To document this, our instructional technology staff has created a collaborative document which is shared with each teacher to outline their learning and goals for the year, such as the small group planning document pictured below:

In addition to these flexible training opportunities, we have many other ways we help develop the skills of our 1:1 teachers, including frequently highlighting ideas in staff meetings and newsletter type communications, all with the goal of building a common language around iPad integration.  We also have an online Schoology (LMS) group for just our 1:1 teachers, and have begun offering some online learning PD options for teachers, too.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Minnetonka TIES Presentations December 8 & 9, 2014

Today and tomorrow, staff from Minnetonka will present nine different sessions highlighting technology integration and innovation in our school district at the Minnesota state technology conference, TIES.  Hopefully you are attending the conference and can be part of it.  If not, below are the session descriptions with links to the resources for each session.  Come visit us at our 10th Annual Tech Visit March 4 & 5 and our Summer Tech Institute June 17 & 18.

Monday: Going Google with iPads
Bring your own iPad and try out many ways you can use Google in education, beyond a simple search. Explore how to best make use of Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Presentations, Gmail, Calendar, YouTube, cloud storage, and more -- all on an iPad. Learn invaluable tips and tricks during this hands-on session.

Monday: iPads and Google: Transforming Science Instruction
Hear how a science team has grown, leveraging 1:1 iPads to increase classroom efficiencies and choice. Examples of their success include: Project Based Learning, screencasting with Explain Everything and Show Me, camera use with lab reports, Google Forms, and Schoology Assessments. All team planning is done on Google Docs and Presentations, and shared collaboratively.

Monday: Professional Learning Network: Becoming a Connected Educator
Grow your professional learning network by connecting with like-minded educators on platforms such as Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. No need for previous experience; we will meet you where you are. This will be a hands-on approach to building your network. Come ready to try things out and participate.

Monday: Project Based Learning: VANTAGE Engages Business
Bring your own iPad and try out many ways you can use Google in education, beyond a simple search. Explore how to best make use of Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Presentations, Gmail, Calendar, YouTube, cloud storage, and more -- all on an iPad. Learn invaluable tips and tricks during this hands-on session.

Tuesday: Formative Assessment with the iPad Toolkit
The iPad is a powerful tool for formative assessments. Explore how to gather real time information about student understanding. Learn shortcuts to make student access quick and easy. Share live demonstrations of favorite formative tools, and leave prepared to replicate their use in your classroom. Come to this session to unpack our favorite formative assessment tools.

Tuesday: Socrative and Peer Instruction
Focus on ways to have your students work harder than you, while learning content. Peer Instruction is a powerful way of engaging students while learning. It promotes deeper understanding of content. Participate in a hands-on demonstration with three interactive examples of how Socrative can be used with Peer Instruction.

Tuesday: Innovation 101: Tapping the Wisdom of the Crowd
Does your district embrace change? Do you know how to fully utilize the creative talent of your employees? Learn the secrets of crowdsourcing: it's collaborative, it's social, it's fun! Join a lively session that will introduce you to a new way of thinking. Leave ready to help your district increase employee morale, community support, and academic achievement.

Tuesday: iPad Creativity Apps in the Elementary Classroom
Learn ways that iPads can be used in an elementary classroom to allow students to “show what they know.” Move away from using the iPad for just drill and practice. Complete hands-on activities at your own pace. Explore with apps that allow for creativity.

Tuesday: 1:1 Professional Development Beyond Year One
The work getting a 1:1 program up and running successfully doesn't stop after the initial implementation. It is critical that the work continues with an even greater focus on professional development. Join a collaborative session with experienced 1:1 educators, sharing their best ideas and successes from two districts' journeys.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Crazy Busy: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul

This fall as things have become busier than ever, I have been reflecting on my hectic schedule balancing work and family.  With four kids in elementary, middle, and high school, and my wife's return to full time teaching, the past few months have been a bit crazy to say the least.  Our family Google calendar often has so many simultaneous appointments that you have to view it by the day just to read what each one is.  My wife is a master at organizing things, but often we feel like two passing ships- or carpool drivers.  Like many other parents, we multitask and use technology to try to keep on top of things.  I often find myself answering the question, "How are you?" with a one word reply, "Busy."  

I am especially interested in the role I see technology playing in all of this.  I also have been noticing the distraction I see technology becoming for me, sometimes consuming up time I may have had to connect with family and friends or just to relax. A couple weeks ago on a plane, I read Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung.  What follows are some highlights from a chapter entitled, "You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul."  If you're too busy to read the book yourself, you may find these excerpts enlightening: 

  • It’s easy to think the best answer for technology overload is to rage against the machines. And yet, it does no good to pine for a world that isn’t coming back and probably wasn’t as rosy as we remember it.
  • In the Shallows, Nicholas Carr reflects on how his attitude toward the Web has changed. “At first I’d figured that the problem was a symptom of middle-age mind rot. But my brain, I realized, wasn’t just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it—and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became. Even when I was away from my computer, I yearned to check e-mail, click links, do some Googling. I wanted to be connected.”
  • ...the Web had “scattered their attention, parched their memory, or turned them into compulsive nibblers of info-snacks.”
  • For too many of us, the hustle and bustle of electronic activity is a sad expression of a deeper acedia. We feel busy, but not with a hobby or recreation or play. We are busy with busyness. Rather than figure out what to do with our spare minutes and hours, we are content to swim in the shallows and pass our time with passing the time.
  • We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thoughts. We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts. That’s acedia—purposelessness disguised as constant commotion.
  • We are never alone.
  • “We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.”
  • We are in a “non-stop festival of human interaction.”
  • Our digital age gives new relevance to Pascal’s famous line: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
  • Neil Postman’s admonition is wise: technology “must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things.” We must understand that “every technology—from an IQ test to an automobile to a television set to a computer—is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore requires scrutiny, criticism, and control.”
  • The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present. We cannot be any of these things. We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance—and choose wisely. The sooner we embrace this finitude, the sooner we can be free.

I'm still reflecting on my reading, but plan to focus more time learning about this as well as taking action on some of the tips and ideas I've learned about from this reading.  I also recently have read Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson. I would love to hear from you about other resources and ideas you have for dealing with technology's role in contributing to our crazy busy lives!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How Long is Stuff Really Out There? My Students' 1995 Digital Footprint

Digital footprints last forever, but how can we prove this to kids who tend to live in the moment and think that Snapchats are temporary?  My favorite way is to show them my former students' work from our classroom website from 1995--still online for all to see.

I used to teach elementary and middle school.  "Way back" in 1995 I taught my students basic HTML code and we built out a classroom website where my students posted artwork, information about what we were learning, and wrote autobiographies. My class enjoyed receiving emails from visitors around the world to our website.  I used to have copies of their work on floppy disks as a backup but got rid of those long ago.  However, all of our work is still accessible through's "WayBack Machine." is like a museum of the Internet that has been saving over 435 billion websites since the early days of the Internet. 

To go back in time, I simply put in my school's web address and click on the "Take Me Back" button.  And after a few more clicks, I end up here in 1995. It is a completely working website saved where you can click on every link.   You click on my school, my fourth graders, their artwork and their names.   

For example, Anna was born in 1986 and was my student in fourth grade in 1995.  Her autobiography and art work is still up there for anyone to see.  It is saved and archived. Now Anna's digital footprint is pretty innocent, and it doesn't even have her last name or an actual photograph.  Students today have much more information posted and available in their digital footprints!

When I show this to students they are often amazed that any of their digital content may be accessible in the future.  It helps them realize how permanent their cyber footprint actually is.  I encourage them to clean up their footprint and keep a clean digital footprint from here on out in the future.  Just imagine how easy and interesting genealogical research will be in the future when you can look through Facebook posts and photos of your great grandma, and watch YouTube videos of your grandpa from his school days!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tip #1 for a Successful 1:1 Implementation: Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to present at the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit in Boston with my colleague Ben Stanerson.  We presented the Top Ten Tips for a Successful iPad Implementation.  Our first tip is to Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately.  It is something I'm continually thankful for as I meet educators from other schools and hear their stories, which quite often seem to be the opposite method--buy everything all at once and implement it at the same time.  Rarely do I hear much about that method that works successfully. Sometimes this disastrous implementation method even makes the news.

Four years ago, Minnetonka Public Schools launched a 1:1 iPad pilot in September 2011 with half of our ninth grade students (out of 750) at Minnetonka High School to create a seamless and dynamic 24/7 educational experience. Because we started small, we were able to focus on just 16 teachers in math, science, and English who worked with these iPad students. The pilot used digital curriculum materials, student collaboration tools and individualized instruction in math, language arts and science — all with the goal of enhancing student learning.  

The goals of our iPad program were to:
  • Enhance and accelerate learning.
  • Leverage existing and emerging technology for individualizing instruction.
  • Promote collaboration, increasing student engagement.
  • Strengthen 21st century skills necessary for future success.

After a successful pilot, the second half of the freshmen class received iPads in January 2012. The program has continued to expand each year thereafter. In year two, all ninth and tenth grade students had iPads. Year three was an expansion to our middle schools, with grade eight through eleven students and over 150 teachers using iPads.  This year we added two more grades, so we currently have 4,500 students in six grades (seventh through twelfth) using iPads.

We attribute this careful, deliberate, and well-planned rollout to our success. Rather than implementing a massive change that affected thousands of users at once in multiple locations, we began at one site with a small group and worked out the glitches.  This allowed us to fine tune our processes, training, and procedures before bringing the project to scale.  

Looking ahead to the future, we also allocated funds to give the entire faculty iPads one to two years ahead of student distribution, which allowed professional development to begin one to two years ahead of schedule. Running the pilot as a controlled experiment enhanced buy-in from all stakeholders. This systematic approach created benchmarks for success and channels for honest feedback. As a pilot, the goal was to learn fast, adjust accordingly, and establish processes for full-scale implementation. I attribute our success to this careful planning and execution. Come see for yourself at our Tenth Annual Technology Site Visit, March 4 & 5, 2014!

You can learn more about our 1:1 Program at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Parenting in the Digital Age Part 2: How Much Should Parents Snoop?

For about the past seven years I've been giving parent talks on cyber safety and digital citizenship. During that time, the technology has greatly changed. When I first started speaking to parents about how their children are using technology, it was about a site called MySpace and a phenomenon called texting. So much as happened since then, hasn't it?! Now days, some kids are getting smart phones in elementary school and beginning taking their first steps into the wide world of social media before they are teens. Conversations I once used to have with parents about their high school children shifted into middle school years ago and now I'm having these conversations with parents of elementary students. Although the technology has changed and the age of entry in which kids use it has gotten younger, many of the questions parents have had over the years have stayed the same: 

How do I keep up?  

How can I keep track of what they're doing?

How much monitoring is enough?  When is it too much?  

Isn't there a program that can do this for me?  

Unless you pretty much block your child from all technology and Internet access, there's really not a one stop tool that takes care of parenting children today's digital age. I certainly don't believe that is they way to go.  Technology is an integral part of our everyday lives.  As parents, we have the opportunity to help kids learn to use it appropriately and safely while our children are with us at home in order to prepare them for a successful future as an adult.  (The tips that I recommended to parents are here.  I also blogged about it previously.)

Start gradually and slowly expand the freedom
after practice and success.

A colleague of mine uses this picture and the analogy of learning to ride a bike when talking to parents about how much monitoring to do with technology and their child. When learning to ride a bike, you begin with training wheels, then you're able to ride on two wheels with Mom or Dad holding onto the bike, then you graduate to no assistance.   As you get better at things, you're allowed to move beyond the vicinity of your house and ride down the street, around the block, and eventually another part of town.  You still check in with your parents and let them know that you're leaving, where you're going and when you'll be back. So, too, it is with letting your kids use technology.  Start with the training wheels, then hold onto them as they learn on two wheels, as those are removed monitor them close by, and then eventually give them periods of time where they go off independently. Start gradually and slowly expand the freedom after practice and success.

But how much is too much?  

When should the monitoring end?  

How does a parent know when to step back and when to step in?

Recently a conversation with another colleague about this very topic was insightful. We were recalling how our parents never really had access to our conversations and communication with our friends unless they were in the same room with us, intercepted a note, or perhaps read a diary. I was reflecting how I would have never wanted my parents to listen to my phone calls with my friends or conversations I had in the hall or on the bus, but if I were to look at my child's phone it felt like that's just what I would be doing.  So how do you balance freedom with the worry of whether or not technology is being used appropriately? Today's parent certainly has a wide array of tools available at their disposal to be much more big-brother-like in their monitoring of their children's communication and social life.  My colleague said, 

"Let their behavior warrant the intervention."

I thought this was a great piece of advice.  Basically, she and her husband look for any changes in their child's behavior to determine whether or not any intervention is necessary, including technology use and monitoring. They watch for things such as changes in their child's grades, personality, friends, demeanor, and interactions they have with her.  When they see something change, then they decide whether or not they need to look at the child's phone and monitor social media more closely. They continue to have frequent conversations about their expectations for how their child uses technology, what's appropriate and inappropriate, and what the consequences are for not adhering to these expectations.  

What do you think?  What has worked well for you?  What advice would you share?

Monday, November 3, 2014

What's in the Ed Tech Graveyard?

What technologies are in your Ed Tech Graveyard?  Which ones are on their last breath or have a short life expectancy?  Submit them here.

Last week, right before Halloween, I took some time to remove some old Outlook email folders. These are folders with emails I haven't looked at for years. Purging old folders and files and sorting through emails that I kept years ago but no longer need is nothing I regularly spend time doing. In today's day and age where storage is seemingly limitless, the need to do this to free up space on a computer is almost nonexistent. I certainly remember a time where space was limited and it was necessary to delete old files or receive an error message stating warning of exceeding storage limits.  But these folders were clogging up my screen vertical real estate and cluttering my view so I finally did something to fix that. (Side note: we use Outlook email, which in some ways is a dying product in and of itself. Many schools have moved to Gmail...) 

I was surprised to discover a large number of Ed Tech Tools that are no longer used in our school district, including some that I'd long forgotten.  Some might still be in use in small pockets, but we're no longer offering training and promoting them:

Blackboard LMS, Respondus, StudyMate, PhotoStory, Making the Grade, Google Gadgets, Google Wave, Pinnacle, Kidspiration, Inspiration, Destinations Reading, Destino Lectura, Kerpoof, Tux Paint, KidPix, FrontPage, Lync, Quizdom, TurningPoint, Senteo, Airliners, SMART Tables, Type to Learn, Typing Pal, Zoomerang

So on Halloween, as I was walking around with my kids, I noticed the various decorations, including some neighbors with tombstones making their front yards look like a graveyard. Thinking about this upcoming post and my earlier experience ridding my email account of unused folders from long dead programs, it made me wonder what other technology tools are which have passed on in other schools, or perhaps are on their deathbed having difficulties breathing? Please enter your submissions here. It's a short Google form where you can either claim a cemetery plot or just let the caretaker know to be ready. The results of this form are listed here and I'll display in a Wordle soon. 

(If you know how to automatically generate a WordCloud or something similar from a Google Spreadsheet, please let me know.  Now that Google Gadgets are in the Ed Tech Graveyard, I'm not sure how to do it!)

I think it would be helpful to see a collective crowd sourced list of educational technologies that are in or headed to the graveyard in other schools.  If we're still using them it might be time to take a look and reconsider other tools and better options. Thanks for your help and participation!

Friday, October 24, 2014

10th Annual Tech Visit Registration Now Open!

Tenth Annual Minnetonka Technology Site Visit
Wednesday & Thursday, March 4 & 5, 2015 

More than 1,000 educators in the past decade have toured Minnetonka Public Schools to see how teachers accelerate learning with technology, including the National School Boards Association’s Technology and Learning Network, which hosted its second site visit in Minnetonka last year.  The site visit always fills up, so register early!

“I think Minnetonka is a sweet spot in this country for having used technology effectively to engage students in learning,” shared a Louisiana administrator. “The sustained leadership in the District has provided the scaffolding to support teachers to look for innovative ways to use technology to really challenge students to do more.”

"A New England school board member added, “I walked into classrooms and it was obvious that technology was there, but it wasn't the limelight item. The limelight was on student learning.”

“I saw so many amazing things. I went to the middle school and high school and saw that it completely permeates through the entire culture. Every student in every class was constantly using technology in ways that were amazing,” shared one New Jersey teacher. “I saw Schoology which keeps kids organized and on task, always knowing where all of their learning resources are. Then, they were using Google with all the different things that Google Apps can do.”

Join other teachers and administrators from around the country and experience firsthand how technology accelerates learning in Minnetonka.  Learn effective teaching techniques for technology integration, witness proven programs, and gather innovative ideas from our teachers, administrators, students, and technology staff which you can take back to your school.  

Register for both days or just one:

Wednesday, March 4, Overview Tour Day:
Choose two of four school tours.  Explore technology in all subject areas, including Chinese and Spanish Language immersion, early childhood, special education, Tonka Online, Tonka<codes>, and the arts.  At the secondary level, experience Minnetonka's digital learning cycle for a 1:1 iPad program (recognized as a 2013-15 Apple Distinguished Program) and also tour the Vantage facilities. Classroom visits and mini-sessions will provide direct interaction with teachers and students.  Lunch and bus transportation between sites provided.

Thursday, March 5, In Depth Dive into the Behind the Scenes Details: 

Choose from a wide variety of small group sessions led by Minnetonka instructional technology staff, teacher leaders, District administrators, and Technology Department staff to learn how things work behind the scenes, from the planning to the professional development.  Learn the best practices and tips and tricks we have learned for implementing meaningful technology integration that will accelerate learning.  Optional private team meetings are available by request.  Lunch provided.

Questions? Please contact us at 


Fourth Annual Summer Technology Institute

June 17 & 18, 2015, at Minnetonka High School

Mark your calendar!  Thomas Murray, founder of #EdTechChat, will keynote on June 18.  Greg Kulowiec and Beth Holland from EdTechTeacher will lead AppSmashing and Elementary iPad workshops on June 17 and breakout sessions on June 18.  Minnesota TIES staff will also lead preconference and breakout sessions, plus all the other presenters and attendees will make this year’s conference a great event!  The conference will encompass all ed tech- Google, Schoology, Chromebooks, Moodle, iPads, and much more!   Be notified when registration opens.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Teacher Teaching Teachers

Today was a two hour late start day for all students in Minnetonka, which provided time for all 740+ teachers to attend staff development classes. This was a great opportunity for teachers to learn new things to further develop their technology skills. At our elementary and secondary schools, teachers chose from a number of great options listed below. Many teacher leaders at each site taught and trained their colleagues. These trainings were part of our job embedded staff development. Topics ranged from hands on practice with various apps to philosophical discussions about teaching best practices and round table discussions about what the future may have in store.

Excelsior Elementary Session:
(Not all sites did technology training today.)
7:30-8:30 am
  • Computer Coding Excelsior teachings learned more about the computer coding curriculum and had hands on practice. Teachers in grades K, 1, and 2 practiced using BeeBots and Kodable. Teachers in grades 3-5 worked with Tynker software (pictured above).
Middle School Sessions:

Session 1 (8:15-9:15), Session 2 (9:15-10:15)
  • What’s New with Google? Come and learn what new features are available with Google forms, Google Drive, Google Chrome Extensions, Google Drive Apps, Google Presentations and many more.  Enjoy tips and tricks to using these tools in your class or as teacher productivity tools.
  • New to iPads - Come with Questions!!! (focus for new iPad teachers, 6th grade teachers, paraprofessionals) This session will provide an opportunity to ask questions, practice the document cycle (getting an assignment from Schoology, working on it in Notability, and turning it into Schoology).  We would like to have a large section of Q & A so that you walk away with your questions answered.
  • What’s New with Schoology? Learn about all the amazing new features for iPads in Schoology.  You will have time to use those new features and see how the apps can work for YOU.   Leave with a quick formative assessment that you can use in your classes, too
  • Haiku Deck Come and learn about the presentation Haiku Deck (iPad App also available on your computer)!  This session will not only inform you about ways to use Haiku Deck in your class but also allow you time to walk away with a finished Haiku Deck for your classes.
  • App Smash - Pic Collage & ThingLink Come and learn about these two apps that blend very well together (aka smash two apps to make one product).  Come with lesson materials to create a tool for your class work - perhaps an assignment demonstration or a tool to use with your students.
  • Organizational Learning Tools - Popplet, Quizlet, Flashcardlet, HomeworkList Come and explore these wonderful learning tools to see how you can incorporate them as a natural part of your class.  Popplet is a mind mapping app, Quizlet is an app and web-based vocab tool, Flashcardlet is a partner app to Quizlet and Homework  List is a planner app.  You will walk away with some hands on experience of each of these to enhance your instruction.
High School Sessions Session 1: 7:50 - 8:40, Session 2: 8:55 - 9:45
  • Google Docs / Google Drive: Core Functions* Google Docs/Drive offers access to files on any device and the ability to simultaneously collaborate on common spreadsheets, presentations, and word processing documents.  In this session core functions of using Google Docs/Drive in your classroom will be covered. Learn how to use Google to create, share and organize documents, forms, presentations and spreadsheets. Learn how to use editing tools (changing formatting, inserting images, sharing settings, etc.) and understand some differences between Google on a desktop and Google on an iPad.  In addition, learn how Google/Google drive works when students are using their iPads. Expect some direct instruction and  time to practice creating a document that can you can use with your students. *This course is designed for teachers who are not currently using Google Docs/Google Drive as part of their instructional practice.
  • Formative Tools on the iPad (Geddit and Socrative) What is Geddit, you ask?  Think of a multi-functional clicker tool combined with student checks for understanding.  Students can electronically “Check In” at various times during your lesson and raise a virtual hand in an informative and non-threatening way.  Geddit allows teachers to use both on-the-fly questions (Quick Questions) and pre-made questions.  Each question type has the ability for students to “Check In” after they have answered.  Learn how to set up a class, run a lesson, and get/give student feedback.   Newer features of Socrative will also be highlighted if time allows.  **Please come to the class with a Geddit and Socrative account pre-made to maximize instructional time.  (Go to and to create teacher accounts.)
  • Presentation Tools on the iPad (Haiku Deck and Explain Everything) The iPad can be a powerful way for students to share ideas with their teacher and classmates. Gone are the days of reserving computer labs just so students can put together PowerPoints.  Both Explain Everything and Haiku Deck can be efficient tools to make classroom presentations on the iPad.  This session will include a quick tutorial of each tool, and then time to practice with the apps.  Student workflow from iPads to Schoology will also be discussed. **Please come to class with Explain Everything and Haiku Deck downloaded.  
  • Pages Workshop Pages is a word processing app on for the iPad.   An overview of core functions will be discussed including how to create, format, save, edit, insert images and charts, and use a template.  In addition, workflow from iPad to PC using iCloud, Pages to Schoology and Pages to Turnitin will be demonstrated.  A brief explanation of the differences between Google Docs and Pages will be provided.  Overview of Turnitin app grading features will be shared.  This session will include a quick tutorial of each tool, and then time to practice with the apps with the assistance of the trainer.  
  • What’s Next Round Table:  Technology in our classrooms (Pictured above) Are you already comfortable using formative assessment tools, presentation tools, and Google? In this roundtable discussion, participants should plan to share an idea and explore ways to authentically extend technology integration.  Goals of the session will include sharing current practices; brainstorming new ways to utilize current technology tools like Schoology, Notability, iPads; and discussing strategies to enhance current technology practices.  Possible discussion starters:  What ways can Schoology and Notability promote student learning and engagement?  How can two or more apps be combined to produce a student product (App Smashing)?  What issue are you having that the group can help solve? How can we use technology as an additional tool to promote reflection and metacognition with our students?   How will/should our assessment of student learning change? How have student roles in their own learning changed, and what are the implications?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Computer Coding Starting in Kindergarten


We know computers are part of everyone's future, and that understanding the basics of programming structure and skills will help today's students be successful in the future.  Last year, many of our students at a number of schools participated in the Hour of Code.  This year, we have expanded the program from an hour introductory activity to a focused, structured plan to introduce all of our students to computer coding through multiple experiences and avenues throughout the year.  

A committee of teachers, parents, students, and administrators worked over the past year and a half to select and develop this curriculum plan. Kindergarten students will be using Bee Bots to learn the basics of programming.  In first grade, students will use iPad apps like Kodable and Lightbots in second grade. Starting in grade three and continuing through grade five, students are using Tynker software, a great program that starts off very visual like a game but teaches students to order and combine Scratch-like blocks to program.  Tynker even lets students view the javascript behind the programs they create with the click of a button.  Another great thing about Tynker is that it offers individual, self-paced lessons for students.  When I was visiting their class, the students in Jennifer Hahn's fifth grade (pictured above) were starting Tynker coding lessons. They were super excited and engaged.  

We're also including additional options for students to explore coding further, such as after school clubs, such as Minnetonka Coder Dojo and Raspberry Pi.  Media Specialist Mary Jane Narog at Clear Springs Elementary has students using Kano and Sphero.  At Groveland and Scenic Heights Elementary Schools, students are using Finch Robots.  Check out some videos and links below for more information.  It will be fun to see what all of these students create! 

See for yourself!  Watch videos about:
Minnetonka Elementary Coding
Media Coverage on What's Cool in Our School
Minnetonka Summer Coding Camp

More resources can be found here:
Details about the Curriculum and Program