Gaming in the Classroom with PBS LearningMedia

Posted by kcaise on August 25, 2014 in blogging |

Gaming in the classroom is becoming a big topic for trends in the classroom. Most teachers use gaming to teach content at some point or another. Gaming is being used to teach programming and more advanced concepts versus used to just fill time.

PBS Learning Media is offering the following gaming resources to help start off the school year:

1)    Star Swiper

Give your young learners some counting practice with this fun, interactive game from the popular PBS KIDS program PEG + CAT. In it, Big Mouth is taking all the stars on Purple Planet. Your students will need to clap their hands while counting until the sky is filled with stars again. For grades PreK-2

2)    Dunk Tank: Liquid Volume

Learning about measurements have never been more fun than with “Dunk Tank” from the PBS KIDS math series Cyberchase! In this interactive game, students explore key concepts about liquid volume, including standard units of liquid measure and how to convert between them. For grades 5-6

3)    Dungeons & Dragons  

Dungeons & Dragons, developed in 1974, is considered the originator of the modern role-playing game industry. Watch with your students this segment from PBS Digital Studios’ “Off Book” to learn more about this particular storytelling process and what it means today in the digital era. For grades 6-12

4)    Learning in Virtual Worlds

Researchers and educators are exploring how video games can be used in real-world ways, both positive and practical. Watch with your class “What Games Teach” from FRONTLINE’s Digital Nation and explore the power of alternate realities to do more than just entertain. For grades 6-12

5)    Indie Video Games

Working “indie” is all about small teams working on artistic visions and the freedom to explore “crazy” ideas. In this clip, your class will learn more about how the indie gaming movement provides a creative outlet for game designers outside the mainstream, and how they can be inspired by it to “stay small” and be more creative in their own artistic pursuits. For grades 9-12

For more Gaming in the Classroom, or if you would like additional information about these or any of the resources available from PBS LearningMedia, please contact Meredith Gandy at mgandy@360pr.com or 415.216.3441.

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Free Sheet Music Project – Download, Print, Perform, Repeat

Posted by kcaise on August 24, 2014 in blogging |

The_Mutopia_ProjectMusic teachers often have great difficulty finding free sheet music – especially due to copyright issues. The Mutopia Project was formed to help alleviate this difficult and provide free sheet music that can be downloaded from the Internet.

The Mutopia Project describes itself as,

The Mutopia Project offers sheet music editions of classical music for free download. These are based on editions in the public domain, and include works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, and many others. A team of volunteers are involved in typesetting the music by computer using the LilyPond software. Why not join them?! See the page on how to contribute for more information.

We also host a growing number of modern editions, arrangements and new music. The respective editors, arrangers and composers have chosen to make these works freely available.

Music educators will love this site and can contribute works to the site as well as download sheet music for their students. This is a great way for other music educators to collaborate and connect with other music educators.



Texas Legislature Considers Proposal to Pay for Two Years of College

Posted by kcaise on August 19, 2014 in blogging, testing, Texas budget and legislation |

Van_de_Putte_Proposal_Would_Guarantee_Two_Years_of_Community_College_for_High-School_Grads___Texas_AFT_Legislative_HotlineCurrently, Texas has the lowest number of adults over the age of 25 that have a high school diploma. Out of all 50 states, Texas has the fewest adults that graduated high school.

There are a number of reasons for this. Texas, as do other states, has a large influx of illegal aliens and migrant workers. Part of this problem is a large number of teen pregnancies. Areas of San Antonio have the largest number of teen pregnancies in the entire United States. Domestic violence, violent crimes, gangs, drug/alcohol abuse all contribute to this downward slide of academic achievement and

Additionally, teachers are burnt out and overburdened with school ratings and test scores affecting teacher evaluations. The final score on teacher evaluations are multiplied by a correlating number that is directly related to test scores. If a school is labeled low performing, a teacher’s evaluation is not multiplied by a high number.

Due to all of the above, Texas scores on state standards is not up to par. Texas doesn’t follow the CCSS and uses its own test and standards for dictating what content is taught at each grade level. There are way too many teachers and administrators that are incompetent and ineffective that a law was passed that a child cannot have an ineffective teacher two years in a row.

The stress from testing on teachers, administrators and students is incomprehensible and one state legislator, Senator Leticia Van de Putte, has proposed that all high school graduates receive two years of college or vocational training paid for by dedicating existing monies to fund a proposed constitutional amendment.

According to a blog post written by the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Senator Van de Putte’s plan,

… would guarantee that every eligible student can have two years of post-secondary college or career training.  Lack of financial resources would no longer be a stumbling block. What Van de Putte calls her Texas Promise Scholarship would fill whatever gap exists between a student’s other available state or federal financial assistance and the full cost of two years of tuition and fees at any public community college, technical college, or other two-year state institution.

Van de Putte’s guarantee of two years of college free of tuition and fees would be a powerful incentive for high-school completion by itself. But her plan also would spur high-school completion by:  bolstering resources for student counseling; expanding initiatives to provide courses with college credit in high school; and enhancing coordination between schools and business and industry to provide curriculum relevant to students’ career interests.

Gov__Rick_Perry_indicted_on_felony_charges_-_Videos_-_CBS_NewsAt one time, the Texas legislature considered paying for part of all of a student’s college fees if they were a child of an educator. This was struck down faster than lightning unfortunately. It was struck down about as fast as Gov. Perry struck down using the Rainy Day Fund to pay for the shortfall for Texas Public Schools two years ago. He is now paying for decisions like this as he was recently indicted on felony charges for abusing the power of his position as state Governor.

I am all for this students receiving two years of college or career training paid once they graduate high school. Many of my friends and colleagues lost their jobs a few years ago when the budget shortfall led to thousands of teachers being laid off with class sizes increasing as a result. This could have been prevented by using the Rainy Day Fund and perhaps this is one of those times that Governor Perry overstepped his authority that led to his indictment. He has a large legal team now and I am sure we, as Texas taxpayers, are paying for that as well. I hope the legislature finds the funding to support this amendment and that Senator Van de Putte wins her bid for Lt. Governor. Her legislative proposals are ones that I can get behind and support wholeheartedly.

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Calling all 9th – 12th Graders – Apply to the ‘Disney Dreamers Academy’

Posted by kcaise on August 18, 2014 in blogging |

Applications are being accepted to the ‘Disney Dreamers Academy‘ from now until October 31, 2014 for the 2015 class of Disney Dreamers. What is a Disney Dreamer? It is a 9th – 12th grader that has a dream for their future. It may be to accomplish a civic duty, hold public office or attend a specific school to further their education. One Disney Dreamer was selected as she wanted to be a part of the San Antonio Ballet.

The contest is sponsored by Walt Disney World and the Steve Harvey Foundation. Applicants have to write essays answering the following three questions:

1. If you were asked by Steve Harvey to tell your story, what would your story be?

2. Describe an experience or person in your life that had a big impact on you. Discuss the experience and how it has affected your goals the future. Describe how you would be different if this experience or person were not a part of your life.

3. What are your dreams after high school? How will Disney Dreamers Academy help to make those dreams come true?

The Disney Dreamers Academy is looking for students

... with a winning combination of attributes that reflect strong character, a positive attitude and the persistence to take advantage of opportunities.

Key Attributes:

  • Intellectually Curious – Creative and quick-witted
  • Compassionate – Giving, especially to those who need assistance
  • Courageous – Brave and spirited, a survivor who overcomes obstacles
  • Leader – The “go-to” person, pursues ideas with passion



  • Dreams about the future
  • Exhibits a positive approach to life
  • Remains grateful and humble
  • Takes advantage of resources


If you know a worthy teen, encourage them to explore the Academy website and apply at: https://www.disneydreamersacademy.com/be-a-dreamer/apply/.




Are 1-to-1 Programs the Best Route to Go? 5 Reasons Programs Fail

Posted by kcaise on August 17, 2014 in apps and gaming, Digital Media |

Relationship_Advice_Surrey_UK___Yoga_for_everyday_people_with_GinaMany schools are moving to a 1-to-1 format where every student and educator has access to a laptop or iPad. Yet many of these programs are not implemented effectively or eventually fade away. There are several reasons the programs are not successful. It all comes to planning and training.

1. Initial training is limited or a campus faculty has not bought in to technology implementation. Any tech implementation is doomed to fail if teachers are not trained or buy into the efficacy and benefit of the program. Regardless what technology is implemented schoolwide, teachers must support and welcome the use of technology.

2. Teachers don’t have time to adequately practice using the devices before working with students. For some teachers, this isn’t a big obstacle. For those that aren’t skilled using technology or fearful of ‘losing control of their classroom’ because they are now facilitators of knowledge instead of the ‘sage on the stage’ per se, 1-to-1 programs are daunting and an obstacle for teachers to implement their state/district curriculum.

ID-1001288783. No common vision. There is not a common vision dedicated to making the 1-to-1 implementation a success for students to increase student achievement. Without a common vision, each teacher has his/her own goals and views of what makes for a successful program and may not be moving at the desired pace or direction wanted by campus leaders.

4. In addition to not having time to thoroughly practice using new apps or programs, professional development is key to a successful implementation. Teachers need to be trained and need to be trained with their curriculum, grade level content, or specific subject matter. Without the training, the 1-to-1 program will fail as teachers don’t feel comfortable exploring and teaching with apps they do not feel comfortable with or are inexperienced using with students. Professional development must be planned, specific, and demonstrate the benefits of using the material/apps to the teachers that are responsible for using with their students. Professional development sessions needn’t be extremely long to cover a topic in one setting. This can be overwhelming with little being retained when presented to a large audience that differs vastly in grade level or content areas. Professional development should be customized to the audience and in smaller, bite size segments that teachers find beneficial and conducive to being part of a successful 1-to-1 implementation. Modeling and preventing burnout is key to presenting effective professional development.

5. Sharing time is a necessary component as well. Teachers should have access to resources, videos, tutorials, and other staff members to share their experiences and frustrations. Colleagues may have an idea to help one another out or share new tools/apps they have discovered. The sharing time is as important as the training time. It is important for teachers to debrief after using what was presented in the professional development sessions. Having on demand items for help when a teacher has questions or wants more information is important, but being able to share in a positive, energizing session can help further the implementation and work towards meeting the campus vision for a successful 1-to-1 initiative. I think many of us can relate to being ‘thrown to the wolves’ per se to and required to figure our own way and that often leads to the failure of any initiative. Collaboration is key and paramount to success.

A great blog post that could serve as a follow up can be found here: Why Teachers Need Personalized Professional Development. I came across the blog post in tonight’s Teacher Cast. I would love to hear your feedback on what makes a program implementation successful as well as pitfalls to avoid when implementing 1-to-1 programs. Please leave a comment and share.



8 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Skills as a Technology Teacher Leader

Posted by kcaise on August 15, 2014 in blogging, educational technology, tech integration |

Scott McLeod is celebrating eight years of blogging at “Dangerously Irrelevant” (congrats Scott!) and has proclaimed today “Leadership Day 2014″ In honor of his eight year anniversary and Leadership Day 2014, I am sharing eight ways that ‘teacher leaders’ can demonstrate leadership skills that foster the use of technology in the classroom.

Many administrators and educational stakeholders, believe they are leading their staff when they are actually managing and dictating orders or ensuring mandates are met at a satisfactory performance level. Leaders, and I am focusing on teacher leaders, lead by example and influence others around them versus dictating or mandating tasks be done a certain way.

8 Ways to Demonstrate Technology Leadership Skills

  1. Model the use of technology for personal use (checklists, personal email, etc.).
  2. Model the use of technology for professional use (assessments, student projects, class notes, etc.).
  3. Read about technology education and digital tools to increase one’s knowledge base.
  4. Be passionate and enthusiastic about sharing to how to use technology without being condescending or overbearing.
  5. Demonstrate digital tools within the context of a lesson or to increase efficiency and productivity to foster creative activities.
  6. Engage teachers. Offer suggestions to present the opportunity to deliver a lesson to a teacher’s class that focuses on the desired concept/content of the teacher’s curriculum.
  7. Think outside the box to motivate teachers to use technology in their learning activities to engage students in unique ways.
  8. Blog or write (books, newsletters, etc.) promoting technology use in innovative ways to motivate and actively engage teachers and students in the learning process.

Great leaders are knowledgeable, creative and share that knowledge and creativity with others. As educators, incorporating technology has become paramount to increased achievement and meeting state standards/CCSS as students live in the age of technology. Helping students acquire a global awareness of different cultures, politics, history, etc. is crucial to preparing students for the workforce after graduation and technology is a huge component that can accomplish this daunting task. Connecting with others globally is of great importance to future employers and positively impacts student interest in learning. Technology, when used appropriately and not just to use technology for technology’s sake, check off a task for walk-throughs/evaluations, or to fill time, can help students be better prepared for their future and increase academic achievement in the classroom.

What are your thoughts? What would you add to the list of skills/traits that effective teacher leaders should possess to foster technology use and leadership skills in other educators? I invite you to weigh in below in the comments section.

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Scott McLeod Proclaims Leadership Day 2014 – August 15, 2014

Posted by kcaise on August 12, 2014 in blogging |

Scott McLeod, technology leader, blogger, author and online colleague is celebrating his eighth year of blogging by proclaiming Friday, August 15, 2014, as #leadershipday14. He blogs at “Dangerously Irrelevant” and has put out a call to all bloggers to write a blog post about leadership and share it on August 15th. He has done this and over 500 blog posts about leadership have been written over the past seven years.

Scott explains,

Many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies. A lot of help, to be honest. As I’ve noted again and again on this blog, most school administrators are still struggling with

  • what it means to prepare students for the digital, global world in which we now live;
  • how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;
  • what appropriate technology support structures (e.g., budget, staffing, infrastructure, training) look like or how to implement them;
  • how to utilize modern technologies to facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders;
  • the ways in which learning technologies can improve student learning outcomes;
  • how to utilize technology systems to make their organizations more efficient and effective;
  • and so on…

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Many of them didn’t grow up with computers. Other than basic management or data analysis technologies, many are not using digital tools or online systems on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

So let’s help.

How to participate

  1. On Friday, August 15, 2014, blog about whatever you like related to effective digital leadership in schools: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc. Write a letter to the administrators in your area. Post a top ten list. Make a podcast or a video or a voice-narrated presentation. Highlight a local success or challenge. Recommend some readings. Create an app, game, or simulation. Draw a cartoon. Do an interview of a successful technology leader. Respond to some of the questions below or make up your own. If you participated in years past, post a follow-up reflection. Whatever strikes you.
  2. The official hashtag is #leadershipday14
  3. TO ENSURE THAT WE CAN FIND YOUR POST, please complete the online submission form (also available below) AFTER you post, including a short teaser that will drive traffic to your post. Everyone then will be able to see your post in the complete list of submissions. If you want to link back to this post or leave a link to yours in the comment area, that’s okay too!

You can visit Scott’s call for bloggers to join in this campaign to help guide educators to be better leaders in whatever capacity or role they hold here:  http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2014/08/calling-all-bloggers-leadership-day-2014.html. Additionally, he lists some ideas to help light a spark to get you started on your leadership day 2014 blog post. Once you write your blog post, be sure to complete his online submission form and feel free to post your blog post on this blog as well. I would love to see everyone’s submissions for #leadershipday14.

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Join the 2014 Edublogs Teacher Challenge!

Posted by kcaise on August 8, 2014 in blogging |

Edublogs is sponsoring a teacher challenge for personal blogs and classroom blogs. Each week 2-3 tasks will be sent via email to those who sign up and register for the challenge. You can do the personal blog challenge, the classroom blog challenge or both!Personal_Blogging___Edublogs_Teacher_Challenges

The challenge will last for four weeks and is designed for those new to blogger, those wanting a refresher or those wanting to expand their knowledge of blogging features in your preferred blogging platform. Each task will be designed for the Edublogs platform but can be adopted to fit other blogging platforms with a little bit of tweaking.

To join or get more information about the 30 day challenge, please click here.


5 Recommendations to Start the New School Year to Ensure Student Success

Posted by kcaise on August 7, 2014 in blogging, Mobile Devices, online events |

Newsletter_-_kcaise_gmail_com_-_GmailI have read many books and blog posts about strategies for getting the new school year off to a great start and increasing student achievement throughout the school year. My five personal recommendations for a successful, high achieving classroom are shared below.

1. Set procedures and routines.  It is important that students have procedures and routines for daily tasks like where to turn in homework, late work, etc. With younger students I would demonstrate the procedure and practice with students. Ron Clark, of the The Essential 55 book, shares how he had procedures and rules for everything he wanted his students to do. Routines help things run smoothly and allow you to take care of attendance, lunch count, advisory paperwork, etc. Harry Wong, author of the First Days of School book, recommends setting procedures and routines early in the school and follow with consistency. Consistency is key.

2. Remembering respect is earned not given. This goes for interactions with students, parents and colleagues. It doesn’t mean give in to every student’s request or overlook misbehavior. It means to monitor your interactions with students and determine if you are treating your students with respect. If students are not treated with dignity and respect, they will not interact with you in a respectful manner causing difficulties the entire school year. Being too friendly can also cause students to interact with you in a disrespectful manner. There is a saying that goes something like, “Don’t Smile until Christmas” has some merit but there is no reason to carry it too far and be a dictator type of teacher or teacher leader. You want support and buy-in from your students, parents and colleagues and the easiest way to achieve that is to treat students fairly and with respect.

3. Communicate frequently with parents. Communicate via email, class blogs, class webpages, or texting services like Remind.com. Remind.com allows you to send texts to groups and your phone number is kept confidential. Students are not allowed to respond but you can use this service to inform/remind students and/or parents of upcoming project due dates, tests, etc. There are several apps and services to text to parents without sharing your phone number. Check out Richard Byrne’s blog post for free texting options to parents, students or colleagues. http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/04/7-services-for-sending-group-texts-to.html#.U-LwQkhM7-5 .

4. Assess student progress formally and informally. There are many apps to assist with assessment. You can use polling apps or assessment apps like Nearpod or Infuse Learning on cell phones or other mobile devices. You can also use Endnote to share a folder for students to turn in assignments and share notes privately. You can create checklists or give feedback on assignments privately in separate folders. Scantrons and paper pencil work just as well but try some of the mobile device apps and tools to help streamline some of the paperwork and assignments. Using mobile devices stimulates learning and motivates students to fully engage in the learning activities you prepare and present to your students.

5. Use technology effectively with your students to make your job easier. Technology should never end up serving as a babysitting tool or just to kill time. We all get tired and want to take a break from teaching throughout the day but try to never use technology just to fill time. Always have a purpose and a task and model proper techniques for using a computer. Game sites are acceptable as long as your objective meets the games the students are playing. Students are highly engaged when technology is added into any curriculum and there are many free apps designed for education that are games that will enrich and increase achievement for students. Drill and kill programs have their purpose for review and reinforcement of the basics but having students work cooperatively to create VoiceThreads or a video where another is interviewed truly help solidify the content you are teaching. Virtual field trips can expose your students to the world and as Vicki Davis, aka Cool Cat Teacher says, flatten your classroom walls by bringing the world, cultures, experiences, collaboration and life into your classroom without leaving campus. Check out her new book, Reinventing Writing, for a new perspective on teaching writing using digital tools. It is a phenomenal read for teachers of all technical levels with practical ideas that can easily be implemented in the classroom with students and I highly recommend this book for all educators.

For more ideas using mobile devices and cell phones with students, I embedded a presentation I have done in the past featuring various digital tools and apps to try with your students with research to back up the use of this strategy in the classroom.

What other ideas do you recommend for starting the year off ensuring a strong foundation for student success throughout the year? I invite your comments below.



FableVision’s “Words and Their Stories” – Special Price for August

Posted by kcaise on August 3, 2014 in blogging, curriculum, online learning |

Words_and_Their_Stories__Single_License_—_Teacher_Special_-_FableVision_LearningFor the month of August, educators can try the engaging vocabulary development web based program called, “Words and Their Stories”. Educators can get a single student license to try the program for only 99 cents for the month of August! You can try the program and see how motivating and engaging this award winning program helps students with vocabulary development and improves writing skills.

This an award-winning web-based vocabulary program that engages students with the stories behind words. Take advantage of the .99 cent special to learn how this product can help your students use their critical thinking skills to develop a true understanding of each word.

In addition to helping students develop tools for increasing their vocabulary, “Words and Their Stories”:

  • Builds vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.
  • Supports differentiated instruction.
  • Fosters the development of critical thinking skills.
  • Improves test-taking skills.
  • Lets students log in 24/7, from any computer connected to the internet — allowing them to work on their vocabulary as homework.

You can learn more about this special and the “Words and Their Stories” program and purchasing a classroom license here: http://shop.fablevisionlearning.com/words-and-their-stories/fa/shop.detail/productID/2536/#.U97Jsaipr-4.

Don’t delay and miss this opportunity to explore this CCSS aligned web based program to improve student writing and achievement.

Note: Information taken from FableVision’s website.

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