Learning about Geocaching

This week I had the opportunity to participate in my first Geocaching activity.  Geocaching is like going on a treasure hunt using GPS devices instead of a treasure map.  There are many different kind of “caches” or treasures that are hidden by various people participating in the activity.  We worked together in groups using our GPS devices to navigate to the coordinates where our caches were located.  This can be done using a traditional GPS device or various apps on iOS or Android devices.

There was a learning curve in the beginning figuring out how to best utilize the device to navigate our route, but once we got rolling my group was able to locate our various caches.  This was a fun activity and something I not only plan to try out more on my own, but I see tremendous potential for using with students.

Check out the video below for an introduction to Geocaching.

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Virginia students to take less SOL tests during 2014-15 school year


The governor of Virginia signed into law an action that would reduce some of the Standards of Learning tests that Virginia students will have to take beginning next school year, according to the above article from The Washington Post.

At the elementary level, students in 3rd grade will no longer have to take the Science and Social Studies SOL tests, and the 5th grade Writing SOL test will no longer take place.

This could be the first step in reducing the emphasis on judging students and teachers based on the results of the SOL tests.  This could lead to more authentic learning experiences and assessment of student learning in those areas because there is no longer the pressure of a “test” to prepare them for.  The other viewpoint may occur as well, those that may look at this decision as a negative, seeing the potential for even more emphasis and pressure on how well students do on math and reading SOL tests, and decreasing the time allotted to authentically teaching science, social studies or writing in those grade levels.

What are your thoughts on the decision to reduce some of the SOL tests taken by students beginning next year?  Feel free to reply with your thoughts.

Til next week…

The Tech Integrator


How to Automatically Open a SMART Notebook File in SMART Notebook Express

Here are some steps for you to quickly share a notebook file with your students online so it will open automatically in SMART Notebook Express.  Doing this process will save the students a few steps.  Here is what you need to do:

1.  Attach/Post a notebook file to a page on your website.

2. Right-click on the file and copy the URL.

3. Add http://express.smarttech.com/?url= to the link before your file’s URL location.


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SMART Notebook 14 – New Features

Coming this April, SMART technologies is releasing their newest update to the notebook software, SMART Notebook 14.  It is very similar in look to Notebook 11, which is great for teachers (not much of a learning curve here) and some new cool features.  I have included some of my observations here, along with a video made by Amy from SMART, as she highlights some of the new features in the updated software.

– They will now be naming the releases to the year in which they are released (’14, ’15, etc)
– New pen tools: Text Pen (This is great!) and Paint Brush Pen
– Is compatible with Smart Slate (the presenter was using a smart slate at the time)
– Notebook Advantage (combining all the resources that were separate before…math tools,e tc) will not work with the Ipad App
– Windows 7 or higher…11.4 is the last version that will work with xp
– 3D tools – now able to right click and label part of an object (like a crab’s claw) the label stays connected to the object.
– Anything created in Google Sketchup can be brought into the 3D tools
– Activity builder items created in 11 will work in notebook 14 (presenter had not seen any compatibility issues between files created in 11 working in 14).
– April 1st Release Date for downloads.
– Mask Tool – Kind of like cropping a picture but you are just manipulating what you can see and hiding the rest (doesn’t cut the picture so you can adjust it)
– Software opens pretty quickly…improvement over 11…removing the Win XP coding helped speed things up.
– Still able to use response clickers with notebook 14…change settings in Setup Tool just like 11.
Have a great week!
The Tech Integrator

Google Docs – Research Tool

Just learned a new feature in Google Docs at the Google Summit in Charlottesville VA.

There is a Research Tool and it is fantastic!  It is a very easy way to find and cite research articles on a topic.  This would also be great for teaching students about citing their resources.

Within your Google Document, highlight the text you want to research, and:

– Click Tools –> Research (Ctrl + Alt +Shift + I).  A side window will pop up with search results.  For each one you can Preview, Insert a Link (creates a hyperlink to the article for the highlighted text), or Cite (which inserts the citation into your document).



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APA Formatting Tips and Tricks

APA Format Tips and Tricks

What is it?

  American Psychological Association Format

Why Do you need it?

  This will help you cite works used within a research paper and on a reference page at the end.  This way you can give proper credit to the original sources of your research.

Reference Page Helpful Hints:

      Cite your references in your paper to help readers easily locate them on your reference page.

      Title your page “References” and center it on the top of the page.

      Arrange your citations in alphabetical order.

      Double space your reference list.

      Use Italics for titles of books, journals or videos.

      Keep article titles and chapter titles in plain text.  DO NOT format them.

      Use page numbers only if you have pages from a specific chapter or article.

Hints for handling citation of Online resources:

      Follow the basic format as you would for print materials – author, date, title and publication info.

      The author of your document may be an organization rather than one person.  This is OK.

      Two dates needed – First the date the information was published.  Then you will also add a date of retrieval for when you found the information cited.

      Include the URL of the source.

      Include the specific parts of the web document if appropriate.

Example of APA cited reference:

Altrichter, H., Posch, P., & Somekh, B. (2003) The Written Survey. In Teachers investigate their work: An introduction of the methods of action research, (p. 110-114). London: Routledge.

High School students Learn Virtually on a Snow Day

I read about an event this week that I think is fantastic!  This winter has brought much winter weather to the east coast, and in some cases, many snow days.  Sometimes the unexpected number of snow days leads to having to make up the instructional time later during the spring.

Pascack Hills High School in Northern NJ today is having their first “virtual school day” today.  Students will use laptops issued to them by the district (already part of their program, which would be a necessity for making a program like this one work) to log into their classes and complete assignments posted on the class web page by their teachers.  In some cases, they will be using Google Docs to collaborate on assignments with other students or do peer editing, in others they will complete an assignment and email a digital picture of their notebook to their teacher.  Students also get to continue their learning on a a day they otherwise would not have gone to school.

Hopefully, this virtual learning day is successful for them, and hopefully as the access to learning devices increases, can be something that will spread to other districts and states.

Articles read include:

Bergen Record Online article (http://www.northjersey.com/news/bergen/Virtual_school_looms_today_for_Pascack_Valley_High_School.html?c=y&page=1)

News 12 New Jersey article:  http://newjersey.news12.com/news/pascack-valley-regional-high-school-district-to-hold-virtual-class-on-snow-day-officials-hoping-to-avoid-a-make-up-day-1.7051404

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Use Animoto to Promote Internet Safety

Third grade students have been reviewing the importance of internet safety and giving proper credit for utilizing another’s work.  This past week, they combined these tools and created public service announcement videos to educate others about being safe online.  We used Animoto (www.animoto.com) , a web based tool that incorporates pictures, text and music to create short videos.  The students did an outstanding job and had a lot of fun with this project.  In addition to embedding the produced videos on the teacher web pages for students to view each other’s and share with their parents, we will be sharing them to educate other students in our school via our morning news program over the next several weeks. This was a great experience, and based on conversations with teachers since the project, it was a success I look forward to my teachers coming up with other uses for this tool in the near future.

Here are some samples of the completed videos below.  Enjoy!  Feel free to share comments below and any other ideas for incorporating Animoto into the classroom.

The Tech Integrator