Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Monday, September 28, 2015

Google Expeditions Pioneer Roadshow Launches at Des Plaines District 62!

Perhaps you have seen Google Expeditions on YouTube or experienced it yourself at ISTE. If you haven't you should definitely check it out. Essentially, the program allows students to utilize the power of Google Cardboard to go on virtual field trips to places all over the globe - and beyond!

Expeditions can magically transport your kids to amazing locations like Mars, the Moon, Coral Reefs, the Great Wall of China and more. I'm proud to say that I even helped write one of the field trips, one in which you can take kids to Slovakian caves. My inspiration for selecting this location was my 4th graders' fave read aloud, Gregor the Overlander. They had always asked questions about the setting and had difficulty visualizing it. Photos and videos of caves were helpful but nothing like touring the environment in real life. Now thanks to Expeditions, my kids can have the experience of walking through a cave without ever leaving their seats.

Google Expeditions was announced this summer, but until now, only those piloting the program for the Google engineers were able to try it out. Today Google announced the Expeditions Pioneer Program. During this school year, they will be bringing kits filled with everything you need to go on an Expedition - the smartphones, tablet for the teacher to direct the tour, a router to allow the whole thing to run sans-Internet, and Google Cardboard or Mattel View-Masters.

I'm proud to share that this roadshow kicked off right here in Illinois today - in our school district (Des Plaines District 62) with three of our schools: Terrace, North and Forest Elementaries and at a neighboring high school, East Leyden High (Go #LeydenPride!).

The Expeditions team drove up in a decked out custom Subaru and took our kids to Borneo, on an ocean safari, exploring Gettysburg and even to the Moon! Not surprisingly, our students absolutely loved it. The ooohs and ahhs, laughter and amazement was palpable. We can't wait to see three more of our schools dig in tomorrow!

After spending a few weeks here in Chicagoland, the Expeditions Pioneer tour will continue on throughout the US, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, the U.K. and then followed by more locations as the school year progresses.

If you would like to see your school's name on the list, head over to the Expeditions site and sign on up! For more information, check out the Google blog post.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Finally! Calendar comes to Classroom... and More!

Our teachers have been loving Google Classroom but one of the things we keep asking for is integrating Google Calendar into the platform. Wouldn't it be great if assignments automatically were added to our students' calendars? Well, the team once again has heard our prayers - Calendar integration is coming to Classroom! Hoooray!!!

Screenshot 2015-08-20 at 2.37.46 PM.png

In this update, other fun features will be released, such as:
  • Reusing posts - Created a great assignment? Now you can reuse it later instead of making it again!
  • Question-based assignments - Assign questions and track who responds to the discussion!
  • Bumping posts - I'm actually most excited about this one. One concern I had with using Google Classroom is that when I post something, it gets pushed down to the bottom of the stream by other content. Now we can move a post to the top of the stream so that our students can easily find it! YESSSSS!
  • Due Dates Optional - Rolling assignments with open turn in times are no longer beholden to required due dates in Classroom.
  • Attach a Google Form - We've all been adding Google Forms via links but soon you can actually insert the form into a stream as an assignment!
For more info, GIFs and images of the new features, check out the Classroom release blog here!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5 Tips to Make the Most of #ISTE2015

One of the largest EdTech events of the year, ISTE - the International Society for Technology in Education, is coming up in just a week! From great workshops to playgrounds to the casual conversation and collaboration that happens between sessions, this is a great event to recharge your innovation batteries. After attending for several years, I feel more confident going into the event and thought I’d share some tips to make the most of it with you:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You’re on your feet all day, hiking around the labyrinthian convention center and standing around gabbing with new edufriends. Be sure to bring comfy shoes - or if you must wear something snazzy, bring a pair of flip flops to swap out once the day starts to wind down.

  1. Pack healthy snacks. The food in the convention centers are often overpriced and under-good. Both for you and tasting. The restaurants around the event are usually sporting long lines during the lunch hours and when you have a short window of time before your next session, you probably don’t have time to wait. So pack some fruit, granola bars, trail mix, anything that will travel well in your bag throughout the day.

  1. Download a business card app. I get so many business cards during these events that I never look at again. However, in the mix I lose great the contact info of fabulous educators I wish I had remembered to save. The next time someone hands you a card, ask to just snap a photo. I love the app Cardful because of its Evernote integration but there are a ton of good ones out there. Once you’ve got the picture of the card, you can categorize it as someone you’d like to follow up with… or not.

  1. Don’t forget the poster sessions. Oftentimes folks forget that the poster sessions are some of the best opportunities for learning and connection. Here are brave educators sharing their work in a casual environment. Many of the best things I’ve learned at ISTE has been from chatting up a poster session presenter. Moreover, most of the student presenters I’ve seen at ISTE have been at the poster session exhibits. It’s so important for their voices to be represented at ed conferences - and when they are there we should stop and listen.

  1. Talk to strangers. So often we head to these events with our herd of edufriends and circulate through the halls in our own prearranged clique. However a potential edusoulmate could be sitting right next to you. Engage fellow participants in conversations, offer a seat to someone who looks lost and who knows? Maybe you’ll be co-presenting together next year!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Coding Creativity: Winning #makewonder Student Coding Videos

On April 12th, my students threw down a challenge to the world: Create a video about coding and/or creativity and send it to us. They would then pick the top video and the winner would receive two new robotic friends that inspire us to code: Dash and Dot, courtesy of Wonder Workshop.

IMG_2760.JPGYesterday my students began the judging process. They watched each video three times, took notes, and analyzed them in groups. The loved all the submissions so much and had a hard time narrowing it down. First, they selected a finalist group of “super seven”, which you can find here. Then they deliberated, discussed and debated until they made an ultimate decision for the final winner… and deemed it a three-way tie!

Congratulations to these students for producing creative messages about coding that made my students laugh, shout and applaud!

Help Us Get To The Future! Perris High of Murrieta, CA - teacher, Princess Choi
Kids Just Wanna Code Young Achievers Christian Academy of Oklahoma City, OK - teacher, Charitta Smith
Blank Code Whittell High School of Zephyr Cove, NV - teacher, Madison Malone
Here’s what my students had to say about your videos:

  • "I love how they used OUR video as the background for the song!"
  • "I liked that they used a hit song and turned it into a coding song."
  • "What i loved about blank code was how they switch to different settings of the school."
  • "I love how our S.I.T [Student Innovation Team] group made a whole school dance and make up a song about them coding"
  • "I love how they were in a big group and they all sang together and showed each section of the groups."
  • “They just looked like they all had fun and tried their best !”
  • "Love how they only used Coding to control dash and dot,I also like how they showed backstage and i also like how you show behind the scenes"
  • "Because I like how they sung why they wanted to have coding and why they liked it."
  • “Love how they only used Coding to control dash and dot.  I also like how they showed backstage and i also like how you show behind the scenes.”
Not to be left out of the video-making fun, my students insisted on creating a congratulations video to share with the winners. Take a look and see how Amiriunna spontaneously threw down a follow up challenge to the winners: create a video showing how you used Dash & Dot and send it back! So the cycle of creativity and communication continues….

Congratulations to the students, thank you to Wonder Workshop for the generous donation of the prizes and thank you to Madison, Charitta and Princess for sharing this opportunity with your classrooms... and most importantly THANK YOU to everyone who participated for infusing code into your students' lives! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words... Images in Mobile Google Docs and Slides!

Let's be honest... until now Google Docs and Google Slides for mobile devices was a bit... meh. With limited editing functions there wasn't much for our students to do with these tools. Teachers around the globe cried out, "If we could just insert IMAGES!" Well friends, our cries have been heard in Mountain View. Today Google released this functionality into their iOS and Android apps for Docs and Slides.


I cannot wait until I see my students next period to see how this affects their work. Collaborative and Visual? Can't wait to see what happens next....

GIF from Google Docs Blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Join Me for the #createwithcode Twitter Chat!

I'm so excited to be moderating the first #createwithcode Twitter chat this Monday! Join us to chat about creativity, kids and coding.

#createwithcode Twitter Chat
Monday, April 27 
6:45pm-7:45pm ET
(3:45pm PT / 4:45pm MT / 5:45pm CT).

Also don't forget - you could win some coding robots of your very own!  Get your students together to submit a short and fun video about coding and computer science. It can be about a story from your classroom, a music video, a dramatic interpretation of how loops work, or anything! Just post to YouTube, and tag your video with #makewonder then submit the video to this Google Form. My students will judge and select a winner! The deadline for submission is May 19th. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hooray: Shared courses comes to Google Classroom!

Many of us have been enjoying Google Classroom this school year. A simple interface to manage our Google Apps assignments with kids? Yes, please! New features are being released each season and as the flowers of spring begin to bloom, so do two more Classroom goodies.

Shared Courses
Finally we can have multiple teachers in one Google Classroom course! Many times we team teach or co-teach a class - or we have student teachers or residents we'd love to give course access. Now it's possible with the "invite teacher" button.

Plan Ahead
Now you can create assignments without actually posting them. The new "save draft" button is awesome for teachers who want to prep materials over the weekend but send them to kids later in the week.

For more info, check out the Google for Education blog post on this!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Robots, Yetis and Monkeys: 3 Classroom Coding Resources You May Have Missed

As we dive deeper into the digital age, coding is becoming more and more prevalent in our schools. In fact, some districts have begun to make coding and computer science part of their core curriculum for graduation. So how can we better prepare our students at a young age for this digital landscape? How can we bridge the divide between male and female computer engineers and help young girls see computer science as a viable and interesting path? One strategy is to teach coding earlier, to everyone.

There are many websites and apps to help kids learn to code. Some offer activities that get kids actually coding while others are more basic - simply training them to think in programming syntax. I've included a list below of great coding resources to explore, but in this post I want to highlight three that I don't often see mentioned in lists like these... and pose a challenge to you and your students to win some robots.

Sometimes coding is hard for students to grasp because they can't see the immediate feedback of changes in their code. An adorable robotic duo named Dash and Dot make coding tangible for students of all ages. Using any tablet, students can code movements, sounds and lights for these robots to interact with each other, the environment around them or even build Legos and play music! The apps are free, all you need to purchase are the robots. Our students are obsessed with Dash and Dot - they love to see their coding acted out before their eyes. Check out Wonder Workshop's blog to read more stories about Dash and Dot in the wild and scroll down for a chance to win a free Dash and Dot for your classroom :)!

Made with Code is a project from Google to inspire more young girls to embrace and enjoy coding. From their website:
We started Made with Code because even though increasingly more aspects in our lives are powered by technology, women aren't represented in the companies, labs, research, creative arts, design, organizations, and boardrooms that make technology happen. If girls are inspired to see that Computer Science can make the world more beautiful, more usable, more safe, more kind, more innovative, more healthy, and more funny, then hopefully they will begin to contribute their essential voices. As parents, teachers, organizations, and companies we're making it our mission to creatively engage girls with code. Today, less than 1% of girls are majoring in CS. Tomorrow, we can make that number go up.
The website is not only full of amazing code-based games and activities (my favorite is the Yeti!), but also inspiring stories from real girls and women who made an impact using code. There is even a search tool to find coding events in your area. Check out their website and follow @madewithcode on Twitter.

Code Monkey is a full-fledged curriculum for grades 4 and up to teach kids actual code. Not just block code as many other websites use, but actual typed code. The developers chose CoffeeScript as the coding langage to teach because, according to their site, it has "a friendly syntax, which resembles the way we write in English, compared to other programming languages". I love how my students are learning to type code, and are understanding the logic behind the code so much better than before. Teachers with whom I've shared this tool rave about how much simpler the program is for their kids to utilize and how much more logical the lessons are as compared to other resources.

VIDEO CHALLENGE - win a robot for your class!

dashdot_ipad-c05a32301aa2000c54b3ddc213b19ec5.pngI challenge all of YOU to get your kids together and create a creative and fun video about coding and computer science. It can be a story from your classroom, a music video, a personal inspiration, a public service announcement... anything! For some fun examples of student-made videos, check out the first three in this playlist. The videos will be viewed by my students and the top selection will win a Dash and Dot kit courtesy of Wonder Workshop!
How to enter (the rules)
  • Have your kids create a video about coding and/or computer science 
  • Make sure it is 2 minutes or less (longer videos will not be accepted)
  • Get permission from parents for all students under the age of 18 to post video to YouTube
  • Post video to YouTube and include #makewonder in your title
  • Fill out this form to submit the video
    • Optional: Paste a link to your video in the comments below
  • Deadline for submission: Tuesday, May 19th


Tangible Tools:
Web-Based Tools:
Mobile Apps:
Communities, Curriculum and Training Support:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Creating an Interactive Table of Contents for YouTube Videos

In the previous post I show you how to create differentiated Choose Your Own Adventure Videos using YouTube. That video is kind of long... 10:44. Perhaps you didn't need to know how to create a YouTube Channel... or maybe you wanted to skip ahead to the part on adding free music.

This post will walk you through how to use YouTube Annotations to create an interactive table of contents at the beginning of a video. This way viewers can see all the topics you'll cover and then skip to the content they're most interested in seeing without having to scrub through the timeline and potentially skipping other important parts.

Hope to see more videos come out like this - it would definitely save me a ton of time :)!

Creating Choose Your Own Adventure Instructional Videos

In other posts I've talked about Cloning the Teacher through differentiated screencasts. But what if the assessment and differentiation were automated as part of the video? Using YouTube annotations, you can embed quiz questions into the video itself and by clicking on the answer, the student is led to either a re-teach or challenge video.

This has been super helpful for my students and colleagues. While not everyone works in a district where YouTube is open to kids, families are incredibly appreciative of quality instructional content for their child to access at home. These videos are easy to create and quickly build up to a collection for you to use for years to come!

Check out this tutorial I created to help you get started :)!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Still here... and there!

Hello readers,

I'm so sorry I've been MIA for the past few months... it's been a busy winter! Some reasons I've been so bad at posting here:

  • Some of my time has gone to supporting other projects - i.e., supporting schools and districts through speaking and workshops or being on a team to help review and update the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP). (Note: If you haven't had a chance to take a look at the last update of the NETP, from 2010, you definitely should. There are a ton of great ideas and stories in this document to help you lead your digital initiatives in your school or district.)
  • The rest of my time has been in our schools, working with teachers and students to leverage devices!
However, don't worry - I haven't abandoned this blog! I will be sharing more stories about my students, our classrooms and digital learning tips. I just wanted to check in to let you know I'm still here and to thank you for reading!

Smiles :),