Sunday, August 11, 2013

Unpacking the TPACK

Before you tell me that you don’t want me anywhere near your backpack or your TPACK, let me explain. TPACK is simply a framework and yet another acronym that we can use in education. Except this acronym really matters (like all the others). According to, “The TPACK framework extends Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.” Props to Dr. Matthew Koehler, the editor of and many other publications around and about TPACK.
But it’s best to show, not tell, so here’s a nice, clean image that shows you exactly what TPACK is.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2013 by

See that spot in the middle where it all intersects? That’s the sweet spot. I’ve seen lots of explanations about what good teaching is, and lots of the definitions talk about balancing various parts of teaching and learning. But I like to use this framework, and I add my own perspective that the dotted purple line, circling the entire graphic, is relationships.
Practical Use
I find that introducing TPACK to teachers is really useful when beginning any technology integration training or online course. Helping all educators understand that it is not that any one of these elements superceded the others, but rather they are all interconnected in meaningful ways seems to help put words (and an image) to something that we all struggle with: how does tech, pedagogy and content play nicely together?
Try asking teachers, or yourself, to look at one or more lessons of study and rate how heavily they (or you) rely on one section over another. The goal is balance. For instance, think about a lesson on the novel, The Great Gatsby, how much of the instruction and assessments rely on content knowledge? How much meaningful integration and intersection is there of each of these sections?
In another vein, consider using this framework to address our own comfort levels with integrating technology. What is your strongest area of context? Pedagogical-Content? Where might you do well to improve your own skills and integrate all the contexts in a balanced way?
More Resources
Register for a free account on to access great resources on the TPACK Academy page
Follow updated information about TPACK on Twitter
Follow more updated information about TPACK on Google+

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chromecast at Last! My (Sort Of) Unbiased Review

I typically don't suffer from shiney-new-techy gadget syndrome: purchasing the newest, latest and greatest as soon as it hits the market, but as fate would have it, I happened to be watching the Google Press Meeting on July 24, 2013 when the Chromecast was $35. And while I may not suffer from SNTG Syndrome, I am a sucker for something that seems like a good deal.

BORING DISCLOSURE ALERT: In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Google Certified Teacher, but these blog posts are my own and of my own opinion and I don't get paid for anything I write here.

The Chromescast was packaged in a tidy little box with an IKEA-esque set of directions. Essentially, plug it in, turn your TV to the correct source and follow the on-screen instructions. You just have to make sure that your device and your Chromecast are on the same wi-fi network, which isn't difficult when using this from your home. And that's how it worked. Shocking.

Initially, casting anything, whether from YouTube, Google Videos or Netflix, the reception was choppy and not at all smooth. But that wasn't really the Chromecast's fault -  I discovered that our router was kind of old and we had needed a new one for a while. Once we got a new router, it worked like a charm.

You may have to play with the display ratio when casting a Chrome browser tab so as to see the entire screen, but it was fast and smooth.

Some people have been comparing the Chromecast to the AppleTV, and I'd like to address a couple of those comparisons.

  • CHROMECAST WIN. You can't compare the price. $35 is a steal and I LOVE not having yet another piece of equipment to drag with me when traveling. I can fit the Chromecast in my pocket. So I guess that's a double-win - price and size.
  • APPLE TV WIN (WITH CHROMECAST EXPECTED TO GET THERE). Yes, you can reflect your entire screen with an Apple TV, and that's definitely a bonus, but casting a Chrome browser tab is pretty useful, considering that most of what I do is web-based, anyway. And it's not like I can't plug in my Apple TV and my Chromecast - the TV doesn't implode or anything - they plug into slots next to each other and play just fine. (I also wouldn't be surprised in Google came out with full screencasting capabilities using the Chromecast in due time, as well.)
  • CHROMECAST WIN. I love that you can use Android AND iOS devices to cast using the Chromecast. Anything that increases my ability to be platform agnostic and use whatever works for that time or activity is a BIG win for me.
  • APPLE TV WIN. Apple TV simply has more capabilities right now, but again, that mostly has to do with its ability to screencast. One of the nice feature is the ability to reflect multiple iOS devices on the same screen. If Chromecast could do that, it would be a whole new picture-in-picture experience!
  • CHROMECAST WIN. Perhaps I'm not just a savvy Apple TV user, but casting what's on my phone, tablet or Chrome browser tab is as easy as switching the TV channel, and the same can't be said for Apple TV. The Apple TV has its own remote (which is tiny and easily lost), and that's a danger in our home.

YOU KNOW WHAT'D BE AWESOME? At some point, I'd love to see the ability to project a device and watch live TV at the same time. Think: watching your favorite TV program and having a split screen and on the other side of your screen, you can get more information about something you just saw on TV, thereby deepening your understanding. Not quite like Google TV, but better. If there's something out there like this already, let me know!

AND ANOTHER THING. Stop asking what the educational use is about new technologies that come out. We're trying to bridge the gap between life and education. More and more, questions asking about "educational use" have more to do with "how can I lock this down" and less to do with the powerful things you CAN do with technology. Let's explore those possibilities first, k? Then, we can talk about responsible behavior.

So far, so good. I like it. It does what I want it to do and for the size and price, it makes it a big winner for me.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE, one of biggest practical advantages is that I can finally show my mom how to search on YouTube for exactly the thing she wants to see. It's hard to train someone while sharing a laptop, and when you use the Apple TV, there's no ability to show the actual browser interface as she would use it - on the "real computer" (not those flat tablet thingys). So being able to show her exactly the kind of tab she would look at on her own is incredibly helpful. Now she can watch all the Laughing Baby videos she wants and I can show her how to search for them...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Project Your Android Tablet in a Browser

Not all tablets and computers are created equal. And they don't always play nicely with each other. As an educator, this can be infuriating. I'm trying to teach our kids and their teachers, and I'm constantly running into blockades that prevent me from being able to seamlessly present cross-platform products. I just want to teach and for my students to learn.
Thankfully, I was able to find a way to integrate my multi-platform system to present both my Android-running Sony Xperia tablet AND my other (shall remain nameless) tablet...simultaneously. My laptop does not have an HDMI port, so using an HDMI cable was not doable. However, by downloading the app, VMLite VNC Server, I was able to easily reflect my Sony Xperia screen directly into a tab on my browser (note: the browser must be HTML5), with nothing more than a USB cable to connect to the computer itself.
Step One: Download the app onto your Android tablet
Step Two: Go to to download the free program onto your computer or laptop that you would like to project from and follow the instructions provided
Step Three: Connect your tablet to your computer
Step Four: Open the VMLite program on your computer
Step Five: Follow the instructions on the pop-up window to set particular preferences and connect your tablet
Step Six: Open the app on your tablet, click Start and follow the remainder of the instructions on your computer
A new tab will open in your browser that you can reference, keep open and project when you want. I also like to have my other tablet wirelessly projecting using another product at the same time. They really can all play together nicely.
Please see my screencast for step-by-step instructions on how to create this same experience for you and your students.

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Google Apps for Admins: GMail

We’ve all grown attached to our email programs, but there are some distinct advantages for using GMail as your email client when you’re an educator, and particularly as an administrator.
Here’s my top five reasons to use GMail in an educator’s life:
1. Ability to search all emails - using the search box at the top of the page, I can search all my messages using boolean language or search terms specific to a mailbox. Using the arrow drop-down on the right-side of the search box, I can tailor my search to find EXACTLY what I what immediately.

2. Filters - Once I’ve search for exactly what I need, I can create a filter that allows me to always know where I need to go to find the email I need. For instance, have you ever needed to find that ONE email from that ONE parent from MONTHS ago? If you create a filter, all of those emails that you want to keep, but you know aren’t emergencies, can direct themselves into your pre-designated label. Now, your inbox stays clean and you choose when you’re prepared to tackle which emails!
To create a filter, perform a search and then click on “Create a filter with this search”, and you will then be directed to the box below to choose how you want to filter those messages.
3. Labels - Labels are similar to folders and live on the left-hand side of your GMail homescreen. If you have set up filters to automagically redirect messages to particular labels, you can access those emails by clicking on the label name. On the bottom of your list of labels, you can click “Manage Labels” or “Create New Label”, but you can also do this same thing my clicking on the setting icon  and clicking on the “Labels” tab.

 4. Priority Mailbox (Important & Unread, Starred, and Everything Else) - One FANTASTIC setting in GMail is the ability to differentiate between your Important email, your starred email and everything else. Since I’ve been using it, it usually identifies important email based on the person it is coming from. I have yet to receive an email in
my “Important and Unread” section that is not, in fact, important. I star the emails that need some sort of follow-up, and those emails are strategically placed below my “Important and Unread” emails. And then, of course, there is “Everything Else”. Nothing is left out, but it is prioritized for me in a way that has proven to be meaningful for me and has increased my efficiency. 
5. Labs - Last, but definitely not least, when I train teachers and administrators about GMail, Labs are some of the most fun. Labs allow you to personalize your GMail experience. HOWEVER, labs are experiments and they might not always work asplanned and a lab function that you pick could go away, so don’t grow too attached too soon. Here are some of the options you have in labs: placing the chat bar along the right side, rather than the left-side of your homescreen; adding Google Calendar or Google Docs gadgets on your GMail homescreen, so you can see all your productivity tools in one space at one time; Preview Pane allows a quick preview of any email by right-clicking on the email message, without having to open it; Canned Responses allows you to automatically set canned responses for particular emails or labels. You can find more labs in Settings.

There are some amazing features in GMail that dramatically increase efficiency and productivity and if you’re anything like EVERY educator I know, having a little help to get paperwork and email done more quickly so you can spend more time with your students is always a PLUS.
  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Android Photography Apps for Beginners

By no stretch of the imagination, am I a professional photographer. I like taking pictures of my work with schools, teachers and students and I love taking pictures of school signs.
I also believe in the need to document, in pictures, the fantastic things that are happening in our schools every day. Photos capture moments that will never, ever happen again. So in working with my Sony Xperia tablet, I have found some great Photography apps that are perfect for beginners, like me.
First of all, the camera on the Xperia itself is pretty sweet (it includes stopmotion capabilities and of course it’s a great camera...this is Sony we’re talking about here). Check out my fellow Education Ambassador, Andy Losik's Xperia camera how-to guide. 
Instagram - Very popular right now to quickly and easily share photos and add a simple filter. Then, share your photos with friends and family across social networks, or just share it within Instagram itself. A 5th grade teacher in Pleasanton, CA, Lisa Highfill uses Instagram with her students to share their learning. Follow her class on Twitter at @highfillcrew to see all of her students' photos.
Skitch - I love Skitch! I use this application more than any other on my tablet, phone and laptop. Quickly take or choose a photo and annotate the photo. I used this to help assist our parents remember the appropriate way to drive through our parking lot, and where students were allowed to be dropped off.

Pixlr Express - Choose or take a photo and edit it for light adjustments, various pre-built effects or add a border for an extra-added touch.

Camera ZOOM FX - Camera ZOOM FX has more options that Pixlr, but is just as easyto use. You can even pick an effect randomizer to see what your picture could look like if you wanted to be creative. Be warned, though...its ease of use, combined with all the fun effects could keep you occupied for quite some time.
Animoto - Take a series of photos (and videos, if you want) and Animoto will do the rest to create a quick video. I’ve used this multiple times to highlight an Open House, Electives Fair or Back to School Night. Put this video on your school website, too!

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Google Apps for Admins: Google Calendar

One of the most powerful tools for administrators is the almighty calendar. I have yet to find a calendar that is as robust and useful for school administrators as Google Calendar, and here’s why:
  1. Google Calendar allows you to embed multiple calendars into a web page and change the way they look and the colors that are used.
  2. You can easily attach documents, or invites to Google+ Hangouts (a Google+ Hangout is like Skype, but better) to calendar events.
  3. You can receive updates via e-mail, screen popup,or text message.
  4. You can add a location to the calendar event, which can have a Google Map attached to it.
  5. You can use the "Find a time" feature to coordinate meetings with other colleagues who are using Google Calendar.
One of the best parts about using the Sony Xperia tablet with Google Calendar is that you can easily add a widget to your homescreen and never have to open the application to see, at a glance, what is upcoming on your calendar. WIN!

For more information about how (and why) to use Google Calendar, check out these links:

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Google Apps for Admins: Drive & Docs

When rolling out the Google Apps for Education Suite to educators, Google Drive is easily in the first three application shared. And why not? It’s different yet familiar, it’s collaborative and you can do some neat tricks with it. Like a puppy. But with less mess.
Google Drive is great to show teachers and they will come up with some great plans to use with their students instantly. Check out Sony Education Ambassador, Kyle Pace’s blog series for Google for Teachers for more information. But Administrators have tasks that are specific to you, and here are some quick ways to use Google Docs and Drive in those Administrative tasks.
  1. Google Presentations for Community Reports Use Google Presentations when creating presentations that need multiple stakeholders’ input. My suggestion is to create a presentation with a common template, title each slide ahead of time and when you share it with others, indicate to them which slides are theirs to edit. You don’t have to single-handedly create every parent or community presentation, and the finished product looks seamless and collaborative.
  2. Google Spreadsheets for Conference Scheduling I’ve used Google Spreadsheets to assist in the scheduling of Conferences at the Middle School (grades 6-8) level. Import a Grade Report Excel file (or .csv) into Google Spreadsheets. Remove any extraneous information and leave only the student name and their grade(s) that need improving (don’t forget to include which classes may need remediation, as well!) Share the spreadsheet with the appropriate teachers or advisors. 
  3. Researching with Google Docs In creating reports and research for BoardReports or other needs, using Google Docs and use the “Tools”, “Research” feature to instantly research directly from the same tab or window in which you are creating your content! No more do you have to switch between tabs or windows between your content and your research. The “Research” function also allows for instant MLA, APA or Chicago footnoting, and searching filtered by licensing rights.
  4. Surveys, Surveys, Surveys! As both a high school and a middle school site administrator, I was seemingly creating surveys all the time. With Google Forms, your surveys are instantly timestamped and the form input goes immediately into a spreadsheet, which you can then sort, add formulas and use gadgets galore to tailor your results to make them most comprehensible to any audience.
If you're not quite ready to create your own, and want to be inspired by teampltes already in use, check out this list of templates I've created for an administrator's life, or you can check out Todd Roth's templates, also a practicing administrator.

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Streamline Your Life! Productivity Apps by Android

Every educator has too many tasks, not enough time and is pulled in a million directions. Here is a quick run-down of my favorite apps to use with my Sony Xperiatablet (or other Android-enabled device) to streamline life, while still staying effective.

Evernote - Take notes on your tablet, add pictures, audio recordings or attachments quickly to your notes, along with sharing “notebooks” to collaboratively edit; also has a complimentary website

Dropbox - Save files of any type to access anywhere and easily share folders. The advantage to using Dropbox is that all types of files can be saved in one simple place; also has a complimentary website

Chrome Browser - One of my favorites: Sync tabs across devices to access your tabs from anywhere, anytime on any device

Remember the Milk - Task management and list-making that syncs across devices and has a complimentary website. You can share tasks with others, categorize easily, set quick due dates, priority levels and more

Power Note - Allows you to take notes, audio recordings, photo, video or bookmarksand sync them all with your Diigo account. Diigo is an excellent social bookmarking tool, and one thing I really like about Power Note is that the default setting is that anything added is private. You can choose at any time to make is public, but it’s great for confidential notes from meetings.

Flipboard - Combine YOUR favorite news and magazines to create your Flipboard and get all of the information pertinent to your life whenever you want it.

Kindle - This is a great e-reader for multiple reasons: it uses your Amazonlog-in, so it’s one less password to remember, your notes and annotation sync online so you can access those annotations even when you don’t have your tablet, and using your Amazon account allows a lot of other functionalities, like syncing with your Shelfari account, if you use that, as well.

DocuSign Ink - Create a free account and easily sign, initial, date, add checkboxes or more to any type of file and instantly email to back to your intended recipient. Great for times when you don’t have access to a printer or a fax (do faxes still exist?). DocuSign Ink also provides a one-page verification page for your recipient’s assurance that it is a legitimate signature.

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Google Apps for Administrators: An Introduction

This post is the first in a monthly series of posts about Google Apps for Education and how it can make an Administrator’s life more efficient, so you spend less time with paperwork and more time in classes, at school activities, and with parents, students and teachers. If you’re not familiar with the power of Google Apps for Education, welcome! Here’s a quick overview:
Here’s a quick outline of what’s to come in this blog:

Google Drive: Learn how I facilitated a Middle School faculty change their paper-based methods of conference-scheduling using Google Spreadsheets. In addition, learn about how Forms are a Principal’s best friend and the Revision History function in Docs can make discipline much, much simpler.

Google Calendar: One calendar. Yes, that’s all you need. One calendar. Learn from my wins and failures in rolling out Google Calendar to one staff and how you can always make sure that you are never (unintentionally) double-booked, or miss an appointment. Integrated with Google+ Hangouts allows you to have all of your resources for any meeting in one place. No more looking for one attachment in your email, the location of the meeting in your calendar and the link to the directions to find the meeting in another spot! Streamline streamline streamline!

Gmail: Gmail is so much more than just mail! Instantly prioritize and filter your emails to your preferences, use Gmail offline and learn about some up-and-coming apps you can use in Gmail through “Labs”.

Google Apps on Tablets: Learn how to leverage the power of Google Apps on your Android-powered tablet and how students can easily use their school- or home-provided on theirs!
Further series entries will include topics, such as:
Maps & Earth

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Social Networking for Educators - A Beginner's Guide

I was a Facebook late-comer. I was teaching, I had a family and a life, and if I wanted to “connect” with friends and family, I would pick up the phone or email them. I eventually gave in, joined and it’s moderately useful for me, but the ways I’ve seen it used by other teachers is amazing to me. So, if you’re hesitant about joining a social network, let me break it down for you.

You don’t have to join a social network to leverage its power in the classroom. Try usingFakebook and ask students to create fake Facebook accounts for historical people, authors or fictional characters, complete with “friends”, “life events” and photos, like the following:

But Fakebook isn’t the only way to use Facebook in the classroom. Try creating a page specifically for your classes that provides all of those great extra resources that you just don’t have time to get to in class!

There’s also a social networking tool that is, by far, the most robust in terms of connecting with educators worldwide in meaningful conversations. If it weren’t for this particular social network, I might not have ever known about the job posting that landed me the job of my dreams. Yes, Twitter. Here’s an easy three step way of finding the right people for you to follow and gain resources from:
  • Follow one trusted person that you know is active on Twitter. Then, ask for recommendations from your trusted source for others to follow.
  • Go to CybraryMan’s Educational Hashtags website and search for hashtag(s) (hashtags are number signs, i.e. #, that is followed by a topic that allows anyone to search for common interests) that is of interest to you. If you’re interested in educational technology, search for #edtech and see the great conversation happening.
  • When you find a great website, share it on Twitter with a hashtag to help other educators find it. When it gets retweeted or “favorited”, you’ve just helped another educator learn a little bit more!
Lastly, here is a quick list of awesome educators to follow on Twitter:@web20classroom @coolcatteacher @willrich45 @nmhs_principal @elemenousand some great organizations: @educationweek @discoveryed @smithsonian@weareteachers @hgse
Of course, don't forget to follow the Sony Education Ambassadors, too! 
If you are brand new to all the social networks and you just want to dip your toe gently into the shallow end, try LinkedInLinkedIn allows users to create online resumes with as much, or as little, information as the user chooses. Power users will have their entire work and educational history, recommendations written from those who have worked with them, an on-going Twitter feed along the side of their profile, belong to dozens of groups and be “endorsed” for dozens of skills.
Or, if you’re more interested in getting quick, visual snapshots of other resources, givePinterest a try. Look at the Category, “Education”, or any topic of interest and you will find oodles upon oodles of websites to curate for yourself. Many educational organizations have Pinterest pages, as well. Be warned: it can be addicting.

But for the average user, all of these social networks are ways to create a digital footprint of YOUR choosing. Ultimately, social networking can best be used to control your digital footprint and what is posted about you online. If you are the one who is posting valuable resources on Twitter, or Facebook Group class information, then you begin to manage your own information.

  • This post was cross-posted from the resource-building that I do with Sony, Inc., located at - please visit there for more information and great suggestions from other ambassadors across the United States.