Sunday, January 18, 2015

With @ClassDojo you can NOW send private messages, share photos, & voice notes to parents & students!

New Flagship ClassDojo App Enables Teacher­-Parent Partnerships to 
Help Students Achieve their Greatest Potential

- click here to connect now for free

I've blogged about ClassDojo for a number of years.  In fact, I was one of their first users when they were just starting up in 2011.  I remember doing video chats to provide feedback on their platform with their CEO, Sam, when my son Jacob was a baby!  I have always had a desire to support individuals who possess such passion to support teachers.  Sam's vision spoke to this.  

For years, many have used ClassDojo as a tool to provide communication regarding positive classroom behaviors.  When I see a great platform, there's often more creative uses than meet the eye.  I've enjoyed using ClassDojo to set up classroom expectations at the beginning of the year, take attendance, and allow students to fill one another's buckets!  You can click here and click here to see a previous post I've done regarding more creative uses for the platform.  

Now I'm excited to share a few NEW ClassDojo Features that just launched!

These new features help teachers encourage students and build great relationships with parents!!

The new app includes:

Tailored views for teachers, students and parents:
one app, three ways. Teachers get a view of their students and parents; parents see their child’s progress and can message with teachers; students can keep up with their progress in real­-time.

ClassDojo Messaging:
with enhanced messaging capabilities, teachers and parents can communicate safely, securely and instantly message all parents, or just one at a time. In addition to text messages, teachers and parents can stay in touch easily with Voice Notes ­­ on ­the ­go teachers can record and send a message home without the need for a phone call. Teachers can also send parents messages with fun ClassDojo branded stickers, too.

ClassDojo Photos:
teachers can share photos of fun classroom moments, projects and documents in real­-time with parents, right from the ClassDojo app. No need to exit and open any other apps or tools!

A more seamless interface:
the app has been designed from the ground up to be even easier to use.

-  Teachers can easily encourage students and engage parents, right from the class screen. Teachers can take actions ­­ such as giving feedback, photo sharing and messaging ­­ directly through each student or parent profile. No more separate apps or disparate workflows for each action.

- Parents can see their child’s progress in real­-time, at a glance, and send messages directly to the teacher with just one click.

The free app is available for download now in the iTunes and Google Play stores. For more information about ClassDojo and its new app, visit

Click the image below to download for free!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Differentiate and Personalize Literacy Instruction for Your Elementary Classroom!

Adaptive, Personalized Learning for Literacy Instruction in Blended Learning Environments

What Is Lexia Core5?
Lexia Reading Core5 is an online literacy program developed with an instructional model and scope and sequence based on research published in numerous peer reviewed journals.  The program was developed and refined based on educator feedback and rigorous, ongoing research, and has been recognized by independent review organizations.

Designed specifically to meet the Common Core and other rigorous state standards, Lexia Reading Core5 provides explicit, systematic, personalized learning in the six areas of reading instruction, and delivers norm and criteria-referenced performance data and analysis without interrupting the flow of instruction to administer a test.  

Using Lexia Reading Core5, students are automatically placed at the proper level and work independently on developing their fundamental literacy skills. The program provides explicit, systematic, adaptive learning, scaffolding students as they struggle and advancing them to higher levels as they demonstrate proficiency.  School-to-home access allows students to continue their independent work at home, in blended learning models, extended-day programs, or libraries and other community centers.

While students are working independently in the online activities, Lexia’s embedded assessment system, Assessment Without Testing®, provides educators with actionable, norm and criteria-referenced performance data without interrupting the flow of instruction to administer a test. The assessment data is correlated to and highly predictive of outcomes on DIBELS, AIMSweb, MAPS and other commonly used norm-referenced assessments. This lowers expenditures on assessments and, according to a national survey, saves teachers up to a month of instructional time.
Lexia Learning and the Lexia Reading Core5 program are the embodiment of Research and Innovation at work.

*I encourage you to also check out this article on "Students Using Lexia Reading Core5 and How They've Made Dramatic Gains of Two or More Grade Levels During the 2013-2014 School Year."

How Teachers Can Use Lexia:
I've seen teachers use Lexia in a variety of ways.  One of my favorite ways is to have children use Lexia as a station during guided reading instruction.  This tends to work really well for those who may not have 1:1 devices for each learner.  Teachers can have three different groups going on at the same time.
  • Read to self: students reading independently
  • Lexia Core5: students working on devices
  • Guided reading: students working with teacher
Having students working in three different groups for about 15 minutes - 30 minutes a day can work well to help differentiate instruction for smaller groups of learners.  

Using Lexia to Guide Instruction:
Because Lexia has students take a pre-assessment, students are placed in a level in which approximates their skill competency.  Because the program is adaptive (as students answer questions correctly, they receive more challenging activities and as they answer questions incorrectly, they receive less challenging activities), students quickly find their "just-right" level for practice.  

Teachers can access a rich archive of student data that allows for better planning to personalize instruction for guided reading groups.  Imagine what a planning time-saver this could be!

How Students Like Lexia:
Having used Lexia Core5 Reading with some of my students and my own two children, I can tell you that kids enjoyed using the program.  The game-based nature of the software keeps children engaged and interested in the content.  

You can click here to see a variety of sample videos from phonological awareness, phonics, structural analysis, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.  This page also shares more information on the student driven learning components of the program.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Educators Across the Country Challenge the @FCC to Bring #Internet4Schools to ALL of Our Kids!

40 Million K-12 Students Do Not Have the Level of Internet They Need in Schools

The Federal Communications Commission, FCC, is considering expanding access for kids across the country.  We need your help to convince them to vote "YES" in order to expand E-rate so that our students can benefit from the access they need in our schools.  

Your Voice Matters

How Can You Help?
Educators across the nation are creating 15 second videos to share via social media expressing the need for #Internet4Schools.  You can create a short video in Instagram and share it via Facebook and Twitter, or you can simply create it using your video camera and share it via Twitter.  Please be sure to mention @FCC and use the hashtag #Internet4Schools.  Here's my video...

Videos can be simple.  You can stand or sit in front of your camera for 15 seconds and just share out why access to the Internet is important for students today.  No need to get super fancy.  It's the message that is important.  Our collective voice counts!  You can see another example here and here.

Be Sure to Challenge 3 Friends!
In effort to help spread the importance of this initiative, after you create and share your 15 second video, please be sure to tag and challenge 3 of your friends to also create their 15 second video sharing why kids need access to the Internet in school.  Don't forget to use the #Internet4Schools tag!

It's Easy - You Can Borrow This Tweet to Copy As Your Own:

Why #Internet4Schools matters: (insert your video link) I challenge @--- @--- & @--- to create a 15 sec. video! cc @FCC

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What are #FutureReady Schools and Classrooms via @OfficeofEdTech

You're Invited: Free Webinar Hosted by The Office of Ed Tech

Join myself along with a panel of fantastic practicing educators as we discuss #FutureReady schools with The Office of Ed Tech.  To read more about #FutureReady schools, please click here to read my recent post and click here to sign the pledge! 

When: Today (October 22, 2014) from 8:00pm - 9:00pm EST

How to Join?
Simply click here to view at 8pm EST this evening!

Amid all of the conversation of buying devices, bringing Internet to and through schools, and adopting digital content, it can be easy to lose track of a focused vision. Without a vision for what teaching and learning can and should be in schools and classrooms, though, districts run a high risk of paying for resources that are underused, misused, or not used at all. Join as our panelists discuss the moves they’ve made to leverage connectivity, digital content, and devices to expand and deepen the learning of students in their districts. Let their examples help shape a clear vision and goal for digital learning.
Moderator: Zac Chase
Nick Gonzales, Boston
Jennifer Orr, Fairfax County Schools
Erin Klein, Michigan
John Spenser, Phoenix

Friday, October 17, 2014

5 Apps to Share Class Work!

My Terrific Three Apps for the Elementary Classroom
As a working parent, sometimes it is difficult to sign up for volunteer dates. So, when I have the chance to see what's happening inside the class or on field trips, I treasure those moments. As a teacher, I've found that the more I share with parents, the less they tend to question. When they feel like they are an active part of their child's learning experience, they are also more able to help with specific needs their child may require since they have an idea of what is going on in the classroom.  
Before spring break, our school went on a field trip to the Henry Ford Museum. Our second graders explored innovations through history. Of course, I snapped photos of their creative minds at work throughout the day. Using my smartphone, I was able to quickly snap tons of photos and share them with parents in a secure way that was quick and easy.
I like being able to spend actual hands-on time with my students. So if a tool takes too long to figure out or use, I tend not to use it (no matter how amazing it is). I need to have my focus on my students. That's why I love the tools I'm sharing in this post. They allow me to stay focused and still capture memories to share with others in the moment.  

I. PhotoCircle

PhotoCircle is a free, secure app for photo sharing. My good friend and fifth grade teacher Todd Nesloney introduced me to this app. To give it a try, I set up a circle with Todd and invited two other friends and fellow elementary teachers, Brad and Drew. Within minutes, we had all been added to the same circle and each shared a handful of photos. We began commenting on the photos and sharing more as the week progressed. What started as just a group of teachers testing out an app has now become the way that the four of us share photos with one another. Prior to PhotoCircle, we were texting each other tons of photos and our conversations would get lost within the steady stream of images. Now, our pictures are organized and saved within one app.  
Since PhotoCircle was simple to use, I decided to set up a separate album for my family. I invited my mom, dad, daughter, husband, and other family members. Once each member is added, they can add photos, too. Each member that is added can also comment on the photos. This was a terrific way to share photos from our recent family trip to Disney World. Each day, my husband and I would add all of the photos we took so that other members of the family could see the highlights of our trip.  

For the classroom, you could set up a circle for "Third Grade 2013–2014" and add the parents of your students. You could invite them at open house by bumping phones with each parent, sending a text, or sending an email invitation to join your class circle. They have the option to join or decline.  
It's important to clear with parents. Let them know if they're invited to share photos with the circle. You may want to set up guidelines for leaving comments. I know some teachers encourage the social aspect of this feature; however, other teachers ask that parents only use the app to view the photos and not leave comments.  
My favorite part about this app is that you can easily invite several people to the circle, share unlimited photos with the circle, and have a secure platform for only those invited to view the content. Plus, it is free!

II. and III. Remind101 and Animoto

Remind101 and Animoto are my favorite two apps. I've used both of these apps for several years now, and I stand behind both products 100 percent. What I love about both of these apps is that you can use them via your mobile device or the web. You can also get quite creative in the ways you use each platform. You can click here to see how creative teachers are using Animoto with their students. Be sure to sign up for an educator's account to unlock premium features for free.  
I love opening the Animoto app on the bus ride home after a field trip, adding the photos, and clicking "create" to produce a beautiful video slideshow. After the video is produced, I receive an email that my video is ready. I open that video in my Internet browser and copy the link. Then, I open my Remind101 app, add a text message (like, "Enjoy this video from our field trip to the museum today! *insert link*). Then, I paste the link and click send. By the time the parents pick up their children at dismissal, they've already received the text and viewed the video of their child's learning experience.  
It warms my heart seeing the children run to their parents and hearing their mom or dad say, "I loved seeing you check out the Rosa Parks exhibit at the museum today." Those specific conversations spark such meaningful conversations right there in the parking lot. I've received such positive remarks about using these two applications in the classroom. No more do parents have to ask, "What did you do today?" They can start by mentioning something specific to encourage rich dinner table dialog. My students get a kick out of it, too. They love coming to school and saying, "My dad got to see me touch the snake when we were at the zoo!" These magical moments from field trips can now be shared to help strengthen relationships. You can click here to see other ways I use Remind101 in my classroom.  

Click Here to See How I use Voxer and Three Ring!

- click here to

~ This post originally appeared on my Scholastic Top Teaching blog ~ 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Feed Your Student's Brains with @brainfeedapp: The Pandora For Knowledge

Product Review:  Brainfeed

- click here to visit their site

A recent study by Common Sense Media found that the percent of children with access to a smart mobile device has jumped from half (52%) to three-quarters (75%).  This shift has many parents and teachers worried about how much time children actually spend consuming “quality” content on these devices.

That’s the question Mark Hoffman asked himself when his children were just 5 and 7.  Hoffman explains, “I saw that my children were using my iPad as if it were second nature to them. It was then that I had an “aha moment” and realized that this was an opportunity to turn this new device – that my kids felt so comfortable with -- into a learning tool instead of just another way for them to play video games and watch mindless programming.”

Born from that realization was an app, fittingly called Brainfeed, that Hoffman hopes will change the way children consume and retain information.  Brainfeed is an iPad app that features educational, inspiring and entertaining short videos for children seven and older.  To help curate the videos, Hoffman has partnered with a group of passionate educators and kids, who select videos to be age-appropriate, curriculum-based, engaging and visually stimulating.  At the same time, they take great care to screen each video for inappropriate content to ensure children enjoy a safe, distraction-free learning experience.

There’s a plethora of “fluff” and inappropriate subject matter on the Internet,” says Hoffman. “But there’s also a lot of really good educational and inspiring content out there; it’s just a matter of finding it. And that’s what we do at Brainfeed.  We review thousands of hours of video to find the best and brightest so parents have peace of mind when their children pick up a mobile device. Essentially we’re putting mom and dad back in the driver’s seat when it comes to the type of content their children are exposed to.”

Brainfeed features educational and entertaining videos for children 7+, tweens, teens and inquisitive adults.  Brainfeed is designed to be fun and easy to to explore, and to be child-safe.  
The app is 100% ad free, link free, and has a "parent gate" to keep smaller children from accidentally accessing the subscription page.   It’s a great new resource for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers.

What I like best about it:
  • Parents and teachers don't have to worry about students accessing inappropriate videos or comments sections within this ad-free age-appropriate space
  • The user friendly interface is easy for children to understand and execute
  • The videos work like Pandora, so a search for a particular item will bring up other topics that are closely related to the search topic.
  • All of the videos are hand-picked and curated by educators and screened for content appropriateness

Brainfeed As A Teaching Aid in The Classroom 

Once considered a supplemental teaching tool, educational video is becoming an increasingly central resource for teachers.  Video makes it easier to reach students who learn best through different modalities and learning styles.  Topic areas include:

The World
Technology & Design
Arts & Music
The Human Body
Social Studies
The Future
…and much more!

Brainfeed was originally released less than a month ago and already has achieved the following accolades:

***** Best New Apps & Games! Now featured by iTunes in 20 countries.
***** Ranked #1 in 42 countries
***** Top 10 app for kids 9-11 in 85 countries and counting.
***** Five Stars - Editor's Choice on

Check it out for yourself!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Creative Strategies for Redesigning Today's Classrooms via @All4Ed & @edwebnet!

2 Free Webinars Featuring Classroom Design Tips
- sign up now to reserve your spot

Webinar I: Redesigning Learning Spaces: Creating Brain-Friendly, Blended Learning Environments

Please join the Alliance for Excellent Education in a back-to-school webinar that is part of its Project 24 leadership series. Project 24 is a systemic planning framework around the effective use of technology and digital learning to achieve the goal of “career and college readiness” for all students. This Google Hangout will explore how classroom spaces can be transformed into brain-friendly digital learning environments. As founders ofclassroomcribs.comErin KleinBenjamin Gilpin, andA. J. Juliani will discuss how the learning environment, including physical spaces, plays a key role in how students learn and how creating a digital environment in such a space can transform the learning process as a whole.
If you are often debating between colors, themes, desk/table set up, and wondering how to design your learning space so it best supports all of your students, this webinar is for you. It will provide information and real school examples to assist in redesigning a classroom into one that considers brain research, gender, and digital impacts on learning. For administrators, this webinar will provide concrete examples of how the learning environment impacts student learning and how a classroom or building makeover may just be what is needed to take student achievement to the next level. Panelists will also address questions submitted by viewers from across the country.
Click Here to Reserve YOUR Spot!

Webinar II: More Strategies for Setting Up a Brain-Friendly Classroom

Presented by Erin Klein, author, parent, and second grade teacher in Michigan

Are you looking for easy and creative ideas for your best classroom ever? Our community’s three-part Setting Up a Wow Classroom series, sponsored by, will show you fresh ways to set up and manage your classroom. In this final webinar of the series, second grade teacher and international design consultant, Erin Klein, will share specific examples of creative classroom environments, and how you can recreate them. In her previous webinar, “Setting up a Brain-Friendly, Beautiful Classroom,” attendees requested specific examples of brain-friendly classrooms, what they look like, the purposes of learning spaces, and more. In response, Erin partnered with colleagues around the country and in her global personal learning network to curate a rich portfolio of resources that she will share.  On September 18, she will discuss how to begin the process of rethinking your re-design, give you easy and manageable tips to get started, and show you several examples of thoughtfully-designed learning environments.  Attendees will learn:
  • How to get started with setting your room up for success
  • Simple tricks to make a big impact
  • Affordable ways to set up a brain-friendly space
As a bonus, and Carson-Dellosa will be giving away two "Back-To-School" Bundles during the live event.  These bundles have a retail value of $90. Join Erin for this dynamic session and get practical tips you can take back to your classroom immediately!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (Eastern Time) 

Click Here to Reserve YOUR Spot!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Are You Future Ready? via @OfficeofEdTech - A Question Kids Deserve!

How Are You Thinking About Educational Design?

- Scroll down to see The Future Ready District Pledge -
*You're Invited to Sign it Today!*

The Classroom Perspective:

As you enter our elementary classroom, your eyes are first drawn to the golden letters that spell READ.  This was intentional on my behalf.  Prior to teaching, I studied Interior Design at Michigan State University.  When redesigning my classroom this summer, I wanted the focus to remain on the foundational skills my grade two students would need yet provide an environment that would encourage collaboration and creativity, while remaining brain-friendly (click here to view my webinar on brain-friendly learning environments).  A great deal of research went into this project.

My students were the ones who inspired me to take the leap into redesigning my classroom space.  I listened to the power of their collective voice and began to hatch out a plan with my class.  The children were insistent upon having comfortable seating arrangements that would allow them to talk with one another and share their ideas.  So, I began to look at the physical layout of the room and research flexible and creative seating options that would allow for maximum seating yet lend itself for rich dialogue to transpire between learners.  We got rid of all of our desks - including my teacher desk (click here to read about this process via my SmartBlog for Education post and click here to read my interview on MindShift regarding the transformation).  Such non-traditional physical changes also facilitated an environment that easily allowed for technology integration in meaningful ways.  

How Does Your Space Allow for Technology Integration and Collaboration
- Watch this 2 minute clip and see how we naturally integrate technology into our classroom!

As a member of The National Writing Project and a Scholastic Top Teacher, I understand the importance of powerful literacy instruction.  However, as the 2014 Technology Teacher of the Year for Michigan (MACUL), I also understand the importance of incorporating STEM, or STEAM, activities into the classroom.  A book that is currently in publication that I have coming out, with a few other colleagues, focuses on taking a closer look at digital writing.  When integrated appropriately, technology has the power to enhance curriculum, engage students, and bring excitement to lessons while personalizing the learning for each student.

I find it most important to make learning fun for the children.  It is my personal goal to have each child wake up filled with such an excitement for learning.  In doing so, I continuously ask my children, "What are you interested in learning?" and  "How would you like to learn?" Then, it's up to me to take our curriculum and standards and artfully craft them into engaging lessons for my students.  I often ask myself, "Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?"  This is something I've spoken about in my keynote presentations as I travel the country talking with fellow teachers and administrators.

A School Perspective:

Our elementary just redesigned our multi-medial lab.  The transformation is quite remarkable.  I wished I had a before photograph to show.  If you could imagine a dark space with brown carpet and docks of desktop computers lining each wall, you would be able to get an idea what our lab looked like prior to the redesign.  Students would face the wall.  Teachers would see the backs of their heads.  Collaboration was not an option.  Now the space boasts a clean, open floor plan with several flexible seating arrangements and an infrastructure that supports the technology within the physical landscape.  

The District Perspective:

As I travel the country, I'm often asked to talk about technology integration in the classroom.  I was recently invited to speak in Australia for the Future Schools Expo regarding reimagining physical and virtual learning environments.  Most recently, I partnered with a superintendent on the west side of our state to do a district redesign of his campus.  His district passed a bond to support a new media-center area along with upgrading additional spaces within the district.  I was contacted because of my design background along with my knowledge of project-based learning and technology integration.  Though I was flattered by the invitation to work on this district redesign project, I knew that I would need to bring a few friends aboard for this initiative.

The bulk of the bond would be applied towards closing in the high school's court yard and transforming it into a "Barnes and Noble"/"Starbucks" media lounge for the students to use throughout the day: before, during, and after school.  After agreeing to partner with the district, it would be my role (along with the team I commissioned), to be the liaison with the superintendent, the architectural firm, and the technology consultation firm.  

The team I put together would be a range of experts in the field of education who each bring a unique skill set to benefit this project.  My first selection was my dear friend and 2013 International Technology Teacher of the Year, Nicholas Provenzano.  Because this project would also require professional development at the high school level, I knew Nick's work with 20% Time, redesigning learning spaces, and technology integration would be paramount to the success of our work.  My next selection would be to bring on our good friend, Thomas Murray, State and District Digital Learning Director.  Tom's experience would be vital to our team's efforts in developing a framework that would allow for our vision to become a reality.  Tom's knowledge would support the back end infrastructure and educational technology design.  

I couldn't be more excited as we work together to collaborate with friends such as James Sanders in developing ideas to propel this district into being a Future Ready District.  

Sign the Pledge - Is Your District Future Ready?

In all the work I'm doing locally and across the country, I'm very excited to see the importance of this being recognized at the national level.  What I love most about The Future Ready District Pledge is that it is all-inclusive.  

The U.S. Department of Education is calling on superintendents like you who lead district, charter, and private schools to join us in taking the Future Ready District Pledge and working to develop, implement, and share your technology plan with other districts so they can learn from your successes and challenges along the way.

So often I feel as though certain projects pertain to only public or only private institutions; however, The Future Ready District Pledge is calling all superintendents and district leaders to take part for the students we serve.  I appreciate how the spotlight is focused on the student rather than any policy or initiative.  As a mother of two elementary aged children, I couldn't be more proud of the direction we are headed.  

I encourage you to SIGN the pledge and 
commit to being Future Ready!  

*click here to read more about being Future Ready*