Monday, November 20, 2017

OSMO Coming to our K-2 Buildings!

Funding through donors has been secured and OSMO has been ordered for Armstrong, Shute and Wilson schools!  Each building will receive 2 OSMO bases as well as manipulatives/apps for Numbers, Words, Tangram, Coding, Pizza Company (money & fractions), Newton (basic physics puzzles) and Masterpiece (creativity & art).  As soon as the order arrives, I'll schedule training and get those into the buildings for staff to check out for use with their iPads.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cubetto, Sphero SPRK+ and STEAM

Cubetto ImageWe have some new additions in our libraries, labs and classrooms!  The district received two Cubetto sets (top image) that are traveling between our three K-2 buildings.  During weekly computer lab time, students are introduced to Cubetto and basic computer programming skills, then students get hands-on time with that equipment.  Cubetto, besides being fun, teaches grid maps, basic computer coding, logic and problem solving.  So far, Cubetto is a big hit!  Our 3-5 buildings similarly received four Sphero SPRK+ robots (bottom image) that travel.  Students are coding in the computer lab using the Sphero Edu app, then running their programs (coding) using Sphero SPRK+ and Chromebooks.  Again, students are learning (more advanced) computer coding as well as using their math and logic skills.  CJHS has a variety of new options, coming soon to Mrs. George's and Mr. Ame's labs as well as the STEAM maker spaces in the school library.  Ask your students about these!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Image result for news flash

CJHS has been waiting for the final word on 1-to-1 Chromebook use next school year.  Will any grade levels join our 8th graders?  Yes! It's official: 6th and 7th graders are going 1-to-1 for School Year 2017-18!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring "May" Have Arrived!

As we trek through all of this season's rain, we're busy here finishing up a great school year 2016-17!

The ISA (Illinois Science Assessment) is complete, PARCC testing is winding down and we're preparing for our final round of MAP testing.  We began right before Spring Break and should finish this season of testing mid-May with then less than two weeks of the school year left.

Our students in the computer labs are thoroughly enjoying Write Comics ( and Tux Paint while finding Storyboard That a bit of a challenge (though also fun).  The library time drama unit was a favorite as well!  The next step our Library Media Specialist and I take is to review the year's activities and make plans for tweaks and changes next school year.

In my role as tech trainer for staff, I've had the opportunity to borrow an Osmo Starter Kit from the Peoria Regional Office of Education to explore what it has to offer.  I'll be introducing it to some teachers for their review, but I predict it will be very well received.  I love the fact that it combines hands-on with an interactive iPad app.  Their site can be found at:

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spring is"March" needed!

Even though it's snowing outside this 13th of March, we are all still looking forward to Spring Break coming up soon!

Our K-2 buildings are headed into some technology lessons soon.  Kindergartners will look at what plants and animals need to survive and create some Tux Paint (a free download at Storyboard That (free online at around the concepts.  First grade will be using Write Comics ( as a fun way to type dialogue while second grade will be learning to use Google Slides as they research an animal as a class and learn some basic research skills.

Third and fourth graders are finishing up units on teeth and volcanoes (respectively), including a variety of research and information technology skills (and a touch of spreadsheets).  Fifth graders are concluding units of poetry and drama as well as a web site evaluation skills lesson.  We're finishing up March before Spring Break with some PARCC testing tech skills to assure students can easily navigate the online test.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Welcome, 2017! (from Parent Portal classic site 1/4/17)

It's January, 2017 and the school year is continuing in full swing.  Tech use continues and it's time to begin planning for end of the year testing.  There are some changes from ISBE and Pearson to our PARCC online testing format for grades 3rd through 8th, so we'll spend some time with students before Spring Break to get them familiar with those.  After Spring Break, our PARCC testing window opens, then our final round of MAP testing as well as the ISA (Illinois Science Assessment) for 5th and 8th graders. Now is the time we're looking at our tech integration so far this school year and making any tweaks/adjustments or adA Tweak Advantage Imageding training that might be beneficial.  In particular, we're beginning a close look at our 8th grade 1:1 Chromebook initiative so far.  It may be cold outside, but we're just warming up in here!

   Image from: 

What Fall Brought Us (from Parent Portal classic site 11/11/16)

November brings thoughts of thankfulness and our nation's selfless veterans!  

It's officially fall and the school year is now well under way.  Our building labs, sets of iPads and Chromebook carts are booked for use by classes and our staff have been pretty thoroughly "Googled" in terms of training.  Just take a look at the "For Staff" tab above to peruse our professional development.  This year, for instance, all of our staff were trained on Google Sites as we dropped our use of TeacherWeb and began supporting the use of Google Sites for classroom websites.  If you visit our building websites (linked to on the footer of this page), you'll see that most of the URL web addresses to teachers' sites begin with ""...  Our teachers deserve kudos for all their great work on those sites.  Our 8th grade staff get a shout out as well, for their move to integration of 1:1 Chromebooks during the school day.  While a few "bugs" can always be expected, we've been working through them and there is integration excitement on the third floor of CJHS!

Thanks for the patriotic turkey bulletin board image pinned on Pinterest by Tiffany Johnson!

8th Grade 1:1 Chromebook Initiative (from Parent Portal classic site 10/19/16)

Chromebooks will soon be distributed to our 8th grade students each morning, used throughout the school day, then returned to be charged in classrooms overnight.  Tonight, Wednesday 10/19/2016, there is a presentation for parents at 6:00 PM.  That presentation is available below.  We are currently on target to begin use the first day of the new grading period, Monday 10/24/2016.  Administrators and the tech department have been planning this implementation for many months, and staff have been receiving professional development, sharing implementation ideas and planning/revising lessons to integrate the use of Chromebooks into their curriculum.

Fall Update (from Parent Portal classic site 10/4/16)

The school year is well underway, classrooms and schools are busy with activities and our libraries and labs are in full swing as well.  Just recently we welcomed Mrs. Jackie Laredo to Bolin's library and lab.  It was a domino type effect.  When we lost Mrs. Tabitha Squires in CJHS' library, then Mrs. Kristin Westbrook (previously of Bolin) took her position!  That left an opening for Mrs. Laredo at Bolin.

Fall ColorsThe tech team and administrators have been busy planning the 1 to 1 Chromebook initiative for 8th graders at CJHS.  A parent informational meeting is being planned.  The 8th grade teachers and I have been meeting regularly as I train them in a variety of Chromebook and Google topics.  They are in the process of creating lessons integrating the Chromebooks and Google into their classrooms as well.  The fact that CJHS already has four Chromebook carts that are constantly in demand for classroom use is making the transition to 1 to 1 much smoother.  The 6th and 7th graders will benefit by having one less grade level signing up to use those four Chromebook carts.  That means more access to technology for the entire school!

Hello, School Year 2016-17 (from Parent Portal classic site 7/29/16)

I hope all of you had an amazing summer and are returning refreshed and ready for a great school year.  I did and I am! Im(erased)possible! 

Our staff members are looking at a number of changes this school year.  We have moved from our district GroupWise (Novell) email to Google mail.  That means our calendars have changed to Google as well.  On top of that, the district is now supporting and training on the use of Google Sites for our classroom websites instead of TeacherWeb.  We are well on the road to "Going Google".  Before the official beginning of the school year, I'm offering a free, all day session for staff on August 8th titled "Chrome Your Classroom".  

Our biggest challenge and opportunity this new school year?  Eighth grade students and staff are going one-to-one with Chromebooks.  Chromebooks will not go home with students, but travel with them throughout the school day.  Details coming soon!

Spotlight on: Our iPads and Chromebooks (from Parent Portal classic site 2/1/16)

We have a set of iPads for classroom check-out at Armstrong, Glendale, Lincoln, Shute and Wilson. They are very heavily in demand in our K-2 buildings and are used mostly for reading, language arts and mathematics instruction. This is in spite of the fact that our K-2 buildings are currently still being wired for wifi access points in classrooms. Previously they've been in hallways, and some rooms had better connectivity than others. Lincoln uses them quite a bit, primarily for RazKids and Reading A-Z, while Glendale uses them primarily for mathematics. Wifi access points have already been installed in classrooms at the 3-5 level.

All of our K-2 and 3-5 buildings have a cart of Chromebooks available for check-out, while CJHS has 4 such carts. Our K-2 buildings just received their carts in the middle of this school year, so use is just starting to pick up. Our 2nd grade teachers are using them most frequently, with 1st grade teachers coming in second. The Chromebooks are in very high demand in our 3-5 buildings, and teachers have begun using Google Classroom to deliver assignments. Our 4 CJHS carts are in high demand as well and constantly in use. They too have begun using Google Classroom, as it not only delivers assignments but also sets all the sharing rights for teachers and students alike.

Our iPads are used quite a lot by our special education teachers and many have their "own" that stays in their classroom. Aimsweb testing is often done using the iPads. While MAP testing has to be completed on desktop computers (because of the way we purchase MAP testing), both computer labs and Chromebooks can and have been used for PARCC testing. We could theoretically PARCC test on our iPads, but we would need to purchase keyboards for them to do so.

What has been the impact of having iPads and Chromebooks in district? It has been huge! Basically, it has moved and spread the use of technology integration into the curriculum from just the labs (with limited times to signup for) into the classrooms themselves. The advent of iPads for classrooms prompted wifi throughout the building, a major improvement. Plus, 1 Chromebook cart doubles the typical use of the 1 computer lab in each of our K-2 and 3-5 buildings!

Wondering what Google Classroom looks like?  Below is a "Parents' Introduction to Google Classroom" from Patrick Donovan on YouTube.

YouTube Video: Parents' Introduction to Google Classroom

Spotlight on: Computer Lab Lessons (from Parent Portal classic site 1/11/16)

All of our K-5 students have a weekly half-hour, regularly scheduled computer lab lesson in their building computer lab. The building library/lab aide delivers that lesson with the classroom teacher present. I plan those lessons and our district librarian, Shanna Gerth, plans a weekly half-hour library lesson. The two of us meet regularly with the library/lab aides to prepare them to deliver those lessons. Often I will create a brief video for them to view with students before the beginning of an activity. When appropriate, Shanna and I provide professional development to those aides as well. When the computer lab is not scheduled for those classes, teachers may sign it out for their own class use. Teachers can also sign out a set of Chromebooks for use in their classroom. Armstrong, Glendale, Lincoln, Shute and Wilson have a set of iPads that can be checked out as well.

In our K-2 buildings, we lay the basic foundations for technology use including teaching mouse skills to kindergartners. With more and more tablets in use in homes, students are beginning school with fewer mouse skills every year. The next big hurdle is teaching them to log in to our computers and familiarizing them with the keyboard. We use a variety of typing software appropriate
for young students at all three grade levels. (See our Typing Web Links: We found that, if we waited until 3rd grade to begin typing, most had developed poor habits that were difficult to break. Some kindergartners struggle at the beginning of the year because of an upper case keyboard that types lower case letters. At first, we stress using two hands when typing, one for each side of the keyboard. By the time students finish 2nd grade, they should be familiar with the idea of home row keys. We introduce students to a variety of grade appropriate, educational software as well as use of our District Web Links along with Internet Safety. Kindergartners will use Tux Paint as an introduction to paint type programs tied to language arts, typing a phrase or sentence, depending on their abilities. Our 1st graders began some basic word processing using Storybook Weaver (image right), and will move to Microsoft Word later in the school year.  Our 2nd graders typed a brief paragraph in Word and will be creating a presentation using Google Slides, plus take a brief look at Microsoft Publisher. Both 1st and 2nd graders explored creating a comic that involved dialogue. All three grade levels will work with a word cloud using Wordle (  
Our 3rd through 5th grade students have, in the past, been introduced to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Publisher and Excel along with Movie Maker and Photo Story as well as Internet Safety. Students spent some time learning traditional touch typing skills and creating smaller projects utilizing a variety of other software and websites. All of that changed last school year. PARCC arrived and, after running an infrastructure trial, it became apparent we needed to focus more on PARCC related technology skills and typing paragraphs. PARCC needs to be an assessment of student's academic skills, not their ability to use (or not use) technology. Thus, we focused on those skills much of last year. This year, with the addition of Chromebooks in our 3-5 buildings, we introduced our Google Apps for Education into the curriculum and are using Google Classroom to deliver all of our lab lesson content. We began with a lesson to introduce Google Classroom to the students, then moved to lessons that combine literature and technology to target English Language Arts learning goals. At first we used Google Docs, a word processor, to explore several texts. Next, the district librarian and I created some research skills lessons that spanned the library and the lab. Soon we'll move to some Slides presentation software use and website evaluation lessons. That leads us into Spring Break and the PARCC testing window!  

Wondering, "What is Google Classroom?"

Classroom 101

Our middle school students and staff have three computer labs available for checkout and use, one on each grade level floor.  Each grade level floor also has a set of Chromebooks.  A fourth set of Chromebooks is housed in CJHS’ library, and our middle school library lab aide provides lessons a few times a year to English Language Arts classes.  The bulk of student computer lab lessons take place in two of our Exploratory classes with Mrs. Julie George and Mr. Todd Herrmann.  Mrs. George’s class is a more traditional computer class, while Mr. Herrmann’s class is a modular manufacturing lab supported locally by Caterpillar.  Students rotate quarterly through each of CJHS’ exploratory classes, spending a fourth of the school year in each.  More information about their curriculum can be found on their classroom web sites.  Mrs. George’s website it at and Mr. Ames' is at  Mrs. George and I work together to make sure that a progression of skills and experiences flow from the K-5 levels to her 6-8 students.
What’s coming up next in The Parent Portal?  "Spotlight On: Our iPads and Chromebooks"