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 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Parenting with Purpose in the Digital Age... It's Complicated

Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, Snap Chat and more. Keeping up with our children’s technology use is tough and ever changing, but critical to their safety and future. Unfortunately, it seems like there are always headlines about kids getting into trouble and even danger due to technology use.  An incident in the Minneapolis area in the past week involved two 13 year old girls being kidnapped by a man they were in contact with through their cellphones using the Omegle app, which lets any user connect to random strangers instantly. The disclaimer in the fine print at the bottom of their homepage pictured below reads in part:


"Do not use Omegle if you are under 13. If you are under 18, use it only with a parent/guardian's permission. 

Do not transmit nudity, sexually harass anyone, publicize other peoples' private information, make statements that defame or libel anyone, violate intellectual property rights, use automated programs to start chats, or behave in any other inappropriate or illegal way on Omegle. 

Understand that human behavior is fundamentally uncontrollable, that the people you encounter on Omegle may not behave appropriately, and that they are solely responsible for their own behavior. 

Use Omegle at your own peril. 

Disconnect if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable."

Just reading their disclaimer would make most any parent cringe.  There are so many similar sites, they can't possibly all be monitored, blocked, or even kept track of...  so what's a parent to do?

Teaching kids to use technology responsibly is the responsibility of both families and schools.  In an effort to help parents, we've been offering parent education talks on the topic for about the past seven years, such as one tonight, Parenting Tech Savvy Kids 101, Monday, October 6, 2014, 6:30–8pm, in our high school auditorium. We offer free transportation for parents in the school district that may not have a vehicle.  In January, we are offering this session again with an elementary focus.  (A recording of a lunchtime webinar from last year can be found here.)

At these sessions, we provide parents with tips for maintaining open dialog about technology and help them understand the significant role they play in helping their children be responsible and safe in today's high-tech world. We explain why kids should be cautious about what information they share online and be made aware of the permanency of their digital record.  We share numerous ideas and free resources like Common Sense Media as well as tips for setting up a filter on a home wireless network.  A link to my handout with all of these tips and resources can be found at My top tips are:

Top Tips for Parents and Teachers:
  1. Celebrate and Encourage Positive Uses of Technology
  2. Proactively share values, consequences, expectations away from home
  3. Model a Healthy Balance and Limit Entertainment Screen Time vs. Educational Screen Time 
  4. Actively engage and monitor, keep informed of trends, pop culture
  5. Set up a filter and restrictions for all screens
  6. Talk about pornography & sexting
  7. Emphasize that nothing is private
  8. Explain that everything is permanent
  9. Talk about respectful etiquette and cyberbullying
  10. Avoid Violent Video Games
  11. Teach the Dangers of Distracted Driving

At school with students, we begin this process early in elementary school, with media specialists using the Common Sense Media curriculum with our students whom they see for direct instruction each week.  At our secondary level, we are embedding the Common Sense Media curriculum into our announcements and also some of our advisory/homerooms.  If you haven't ever looked at Common Sense Media, it's great.  I'm always recommending this site to parents as a great place for up to date news on the latest trends, reviews of movies, apps, video games, etc., and advice on parenting in the Digital Age.  We keep updating information to share with our students' families about cyber safety and digital citizenship on our website, including tips such as instructions about installing home internet filters and links to other resources. We started a District Task Force on Digital Citizenship this past summer. We've also refreshed a poster campaign, with some examples pictured below:


Our hope is that by repeatedly reminding and educating both students and parents through multiple mediums and means, our students will be safe and responsible digital citizens. 

(Here's an interesting followup to the news story mentioned above: When 13-year-olds went missing, Minnesota detectives cracked case with digital forensics plus some tips for parents.)