Digital Learning Resources Have a New Home



A few weeks ago I let you all know about the problems with our Digital Learning Resources (DLR) Moodle course. While this probably won’t be the final home of the DLR, I’m happy to say that many of the modules are now available on my webpage. I’m taking each of the modules and turning it into a Google Slides presentation and then linking that to my page. Instead of moving from tab to tab, you’ll navigate from slide to slide to explore the resources. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than not having access at all. Currently there are 13 modules posted. If you need a module that you know was on the Moodle but don’t see it on the webpage, please let me know and I’ll get it there as soon as possible. Otherwise, my goal is to add one more each day until the entire course is rebuilt.

Thank you all for your patience as we work through this transition. If there is a topic you’re interested in and would like to see added to the DLR, please let me know. You can access the new Digital Learning Resources page by clicking here or on the “detour” sign above. You can also find my webpage on the MASD homepage under Academics then Instructional Coaches




Google Chrome User? Try These Three Tips

On two recent Fridays, Kirsten Zelenky, Jess Bock, and I had the privilege of attending Google Educator Bootcamp sessions held at IU12 and IU13. The training, led by Rich Kiker (@rkiker), was packed full of information designed to help us pass the Google Educator Level 2 Certification exam. I don’t know if I’ll actually take the exam, but I learned a lot of things about Google Apps for Education that I can use and share with all of you! Today I’d like to share three quick tips to make your Google Chrome browser experience a little more convenient.

Reopen a Closed Tab – Have you ever accidentally closed the wrong tab in your browser? In Chrome, simply right-click (Control-click on a Mac) on any open tab and choose “Reopen Closed Tab” to open the last tab closed. It works something like the “undo” button, so if the tab you want wasn’t the very last one you closed, you can keep “reopening” tabs until you get the one you wanted.



Pin Tabs  If you’re like me, there are a few tabs that you might keep open all day long while you’re working. For instance, I almost always have Google Drive open. To save space in my browser, but keep Drive at my fingertips, I can right-click on that tab and choose “Pin Tab”. Chrome will shrink the tab and move it to the left side of my window. The Drive icon still shows, so I can quickly identify the contents of the tab. To “unpin” a tab, simply right-click and choose “Unpin Tab”.


Open a Tab in a New Window – Sometimes I have two tabs open, but I’d like to see them side by side. To make a tab into its own window, simply grab the tab and drag it down on your screen. The tab will open in its own Chrome window. It works in reverse, too. Drag a separate tab into the tab bar of another Chrome window and it will become a tab in that window. Watch this short video for a demo.

For additional information about Google Chrome features, check out this page from GCF 

Know any other great Chrome tips? Please leave a comment to share them!

Meddling with Moodle ~ A Guest Post by Mike Floreck

One of the exciting ways technology can enhance learning for students is by allowing “school” to move beyond the confines of the classroom walls and the bell schedule. Many of you are experimenting with various ways to meet students’ needs: posting videos so students can preview content before coming to class; sharing instructional resources online for the student who needs another look; providing opportunities for students to work at their own pace with your guidance and feedback. To find out more about creating an online learning space, check out today’s guest post by Mike Floreck, MASH Biology teacher.

Meddling with Moodle                                                                              Mike Floreck

Teachers from grades K-12 struggle with the same basic concerns regarding student engagement, progress monitoring, and feedback; therefore, it’s no surprise that many of us have been leery of compounding our daily work with new riddles we perceive might result from testing the waters of blended learning.

When designing and offering web-based instructional opportunities, many teachers cite these challenging questions:

  • How do I shepherd my students toward quality resources and keep them from wandering off task?
  • How do I know if they are actually doing the activities that I offer them?
  • How do I know if they learned something when they were on their own?

As you can see, these questions are a reflection of our age-old concerns (i.e. engagement, progress monitoring, and feedback), so there really aren’t new riddles to solve; with that said, there must be a reward for our time if we are going to move away from the relative comforts of brick-and-mortar learning.  Many educational leaders have cautioned that replacing a traditional activity with a technological solution (e.g. type, rather than hand write) does not necessarily increase student learning; in fact, it often causes students to become lost in the weeds without changing the way they think or work.

What is a Learning Management System?moodle

Admittedly, until I began to build a Moodle course last fall, I was quick to caution young teachers about the perils and pitfalls of planning lessons in cyberspace; today, I am confident in saying that in many ways, these new technologies have the potential to not only answer our age-old questions, but also radically change the way our students go about their learning.

When I first explored Moodle, it seemed like a solution to a problem that I didn’t have; recently, though, I re-invested myself in this technology as a way of addressing the need to provide extracurricular, asynchronous (students work at their own pace) intervention and remediation activities for the Keystone Biology exam.

KBRMoodle is a Learning Management System (LMS), which makes it a two-way street; a way to push out information and harvest data from your students in return.   Built on the existing user accounts of our students, Moodle will allow you to create and offer activities like flashcards, PowerPoints, video clips, and other web-based content to supplement their classroom work, and then track their engagement, provide instant feedback, and offer a safe and secure environment in which they can learn appropriate netiquette, and build critical literacy skills.


What can Moodle do?

Moodle really shines in its ability to create a differentiated experience; since students may be assigned to specific groupings, in addition to whole-class assignments, they can be offered points of divergence to remediate skill deficits, or to seek out enrichment opportunities.  In essence, teachers become curators of a museum of opportunities, and then put their students in the driver’s seat to navigate where and when they choose to travel.


Since the Moodle not only pushes out content, but also pulls back artifacts of their learning, student responses can be shared for collaboration in moderated discussions and evaluated for progress monitoring purposes.  Many Web 2.0 tools offer some of this, but Moodle excels in its ability to bring all of it into one platform, and greatly simplifies navigation, while at the same time creating footprints for us to track.

transactDuring a week in which we watched a film, and classroom time was limited, I asked my students to process key themes by conversing in Moodle forums which allowed them to discuss the film, share their reactions, and find answers to burning questions.  The value struck when I realized that many shy students quickly became active participants.

During the closing 15 minutes, students conversed via a chat room that allowed them to “text during the movie”, a common trend among Digital Natives. It was fascinating to know what they were thinking while they watched!

What about Formative Assessment?

Another exciting feature is the capacity of a Moodle quiz to not only score student work, but also provide differentiated feedback across multiple attempts; teachers have ultimate control over this.  For instance, in my Keystone Recovery Moodle, students are first given hypothesisa pretest without feedback, and then after remediation has occurred, general teaching points are offered as they revisit the questions; I even have the ability to deliver key teaching points based upon the specific answers my students make.  This allows me to deal with common misconceptions or errors at teachable moments…for EVERY student…EVERY time they respond!  In this way, Moodle is a force-multiplier, and formative assessments truly become assessments FOR learning, not just OF learning.

What will they see when they are in the Moodle?

Teachers can offer embedded video content that is free of ads and the other distracting complications that come along with most Internet pages; in fact, any audio or video content you find on the web can be embedded within the Moodle, thereby preventing your students free-run of the Internet during their lessons.

Moodle works by using a set of activities that communicate with a database, so it’s easy to use information from one place elsewhere.  For instance, once you create a glossary of your vocabulary terms, you can easily generate crossword puzzles, or instantly populate your text with hyperlinks to your essential terms.

For those of you who are comfortable with HTML coding, the sky is the limit. But for the rest of us, it’s still very easy to take things from one place on the Internet and make them appear within your Moodle.  In fact, if you are comfortable with updating a webpage, you will find the learning curve to be rather flat.

Is this really going to be worth it?

For those concerned about making a time investment in a new platform, Moodle is built on open-source code that can be easily moved from one LMS platform to another; time spent creating feedback-laden question banks, producing flashcard sets, and generating forum activities will never be wasted.  Your Moodle activities are compatible with Blackboard or other LMS platforms, and if you prefer to go rogue, it’s possible to pay small fees to companies who will host your Moodle on their servers; that way, you will never have to start over again!

Unit1This year, 35 students enrolled in the Keystone Biology Recovery Moodle in order to brush up on their skills and earn the right to re-take their midterm exam; yes, they worked on their own…in order to earn the right to take a really hard test…AGAIN!

I am very anxious to see how they do on their Keystone exam, but the improvement for those who completed the course was about 10% on the retake.   Based upon the preliminary data and feedback from some of the participants, we are very optimistic that this extracurricular work will be a difference-maker for the bubble students who are generally mere points away from demonstrating proficiency.


Okay, Floreck…how do I get started?

Just like any new endeavor, there is an initial learning curve, but in this case, the dividends paid back to you and your students far outweigh the cost.  In fact, the capacity of Moodle to allow multiple editors means that it can become an excellent collaborative activity that helps to spread ideas from one teacher to another. If you are interested in getting started, I would be happy to provide support to help you set up your Moodle and design your first activities.

If you would like to see the Moodle in motion, I have attached links on the bottom of this article to several screencast tutorials that I developed to show my students how the various features work (click on the images to access the videos).  Just like any other instructional activity, modeling helps students to catch on and make the most of the experience. I find my initial screencasts to be hugely embarrassing, but I think these videos will give you a good look under the hood so you can see if you want to explore further.  I plan on creating some tutorials to help teachers design their own course, so get in touch and I will keep you in the loop!

Tutorial Videos

Moodle Navigation   nav video                                                               




Flashcardsflashcard vid





Quizzing quizzing                                                                  




Discussion Forumdiscussion vid


Make the Non-Digital World “Clickable” with QR Codes

You’ve seen them. These funny-looking black and white squares show up on advertisements, business cards, and product packaging. Like grocery store barcodes on steroids, QR codes (short for “quick response” codes) are a way to access digital information from spaces that are not usually “clickable”. They are easy to make and even easier to use, and there are so many ways they can be used in the classroom.

  • Add a QR code to a graphic organizer or worksheet. Students can scan the code to access more information about the topic (webpage, Libguide, video, etc.).
  • Add a QR code to hard copies of parent information letters to allow parents to quickly scan and add your contact information to their devices.
  • Project a QR code and have students scan to access an online video or webpage without having to type in a long URL.
  • Have students create audio or video book reviews and post them online. Place a QR code linking to the review on the back cover of the book so students can find out more before reading.
  • What other ideas can you share???

Reading QR Codes

QR codes are designed to be read by an app that uses the camera built into a mobile device. Many of our district iPads already have a QR code reader app, but if yours do not, you can follow your building procedures to request one. There are many free QR code readers out there, but here are a few to try:

i-nigma for iOS

i-nigma for Android

Qrafter for iOS

QR Code Reader for Android  

Creating QR Codes

Making QR codes is almost as easy as scanning them. Check out the links below and try it for yourself!

QR Code Generator – Enter text, URL, contact information, etc. and watch the QR code change. Download or copy the code in several sizes to fit your needs.

QR Stuff – This one allows you to produce QR codes in different colors. Great for organizing or differentiation!

GoQRMe – One more option for creating QR codes.

For more information, check out my Diigo list for QR Codes (scan the code at the top of this post to go to one of the sites on that list).

I’ve shared QR codes with several teachers over the past few weeks and seen them used in classrooms from 2nd grade through high school. If you’ve used QR codes with your students, please chime in with a comment below to share how you’ve used them!


Find Out What They Know with Kahoot!

Based on the responses from the survey I sent out last week, many of you seem interested in using digital tools for formative assessment. I know it’s the day before Thanksgiving break, so I’ll keep this quick – but I promise we’ll come back to this topic again in the future, because there are MANY resources to share.Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.04.34 PM

One of my favorite finds of the past few months is Kahoot. I’ve already shared this with a few groups, but it’s worth spreading to the rest of you. Kahoot is a free online service that allows you to create a game-type activity to review or check for understanding. Project the quiz at the front of the room and students respond via any device with a web browser – laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Quizzes are easy to create and can include multiple choice or discussion questions. The quizzes are timed, but you have control over how much time students have to respond. Students earn points for correct answers, with bonus points for answering faster. (Note: The time factor might be stressful for some students, so you’ll want to consider your learners. You can easily turn this into a partner or small group activity so students can collaborate.) After the quiz is over, you can download a spreadsheet of the responses grouped by question and by student.

The best way to learn about Kahoot is to try it out. Fortunately there are lots of public Kahoots created by other teachers on a wide range of topics. Go to Kahoot and create a free account (it only takes a few seconds). Click on “Public Kahoots” at the top of the page, type a topic in the search bar, and hit “Search”. Chances are you will find a quiz you can use with your students. If not, go back to the top and click on the purple “New K!” button and start creating your own. For those of you who don’t have your own classrooms, this works really well with adults, too!

If you’d like a little more information, click here to watch a short video tutorial about Kahoot.

If you’re already familiar with Kahoot, please add a comment to tell us how you’ve used it. If you try it out soon, let us know how it goes!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Document Cameras – More Than Just the New Overhead Projector

Over the last year or so, document cameras have been popping up in classrooms throughout the district. These handy little gadgets can do many of the things our old overhead projectors did…and so much more. Here are just a few great ways I’ve seen teachers use their document cameras:

  • Share a piece of student writing with the whole class to demonstrate a great use of figurative language or to model editing and revising.
  • Place a calculator under the document camera to demonstrate how to use the device to solve a particular problem.Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 10.25.34 AM
  • Instead of having students crowd around you to watch you demonstrate a science experiment, use the document camera to project the process so everyone can see.
  • Place an iPad or other device under the camera to
    teach students to use a new app. You can also use the camera to share what’s on the device’s screen instead of having to connect the device itself to your projector.
  • Zoom in on a particular piece of text to demonstrate the use of text markings and annotations.

Looking for more information about how to get the most from your document camera? Click here for my Diigo list of links related to using document cameras in the classroom.

What’s your favorite way to use your document camera? Please share your ideas!



“Is There an App for That?”

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 11.56.46 AM

At least once a week I get a request from a teacher or administrator who is looking for a good app for (fill in the blank). In fact, it just happened this morning. Rather than allow you all to think I have some magic power for finding apps, I thought I’d share the resources I generally use when looking for good instructional apps or websites to use in the classroom. While these primarily apply to apps for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, some of the services provide educational websites and online games as well. is a free service from Common Sense Media that helps teachers find the best apps and educational content on the web. All resources are reviewed by teachers and other education experts and you can filter your search by type of resource, grade level, subject area, price, and device. Teachers who use the resources are invited and encouraged to add their own feedback as well. This is my “go-to” resource when looking for any online resource for the classroom.

AppCrawlr bills itself as “the app discovery engine”. While not limited to educational apps, you can use the filters to narrow your search by content and type of device. My favorite part of AppCrawlr is the “compare” button on each search result, which provides you with a chart comparing that app with 9 similar apps on a whole range of criteria. This is a great way to find new resources! is a resource I learned about during our elementary “Growing Digitally” Mini-Conference last August. Thanks to Chelsie Moss for sharing this one! Appitic is a huge collection of iPad apps reviewed by teachers and organized by categories such as Special Education, Challenge Based Learning, Multiple Intelligences, and Blooms Taxonomy.

While I enjoy researching and sharing great apps – and will continue to do so – I’m happy to share these resources with you so you can maximize your own app-searching efforts. While these three are helpful, I’m sure there are others out there. What sites or services do you use to find great resources for yourself or your students? Please share!