Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Student Work That Matters: Free We Volunteer Now Kit

This is the time of year when the tests are behind students and the fun begins. Teachers are free to liberate their student’s genius and allow them to Choose2Matter by engaging in work that is worthy of the world. Angela Maiers says that learners who believe they have unique abilities early on will be more likely than others to:
  • Harness their talents more quickly
  • Develop self-confidence and a belief that they can succeed
  • Maintain their optimism and confidence under stress
  • Learn to rely on themselves more than others to get what they need in life
  • Live a productive and fulfilled life
"Genius Matters: A Framework for Epic Transformation is a free book with 20 lessons that teachers can implement with students to find their unique abilities and do work that matters such as volunteering.

Setting Up A Volunteering Campaign

Now there is extra support for those students who  Choose2Matter by volunteering their time and talents.  WE Volunteer Now helps teachers help students organize volunteer activities to address issues and raise awareness about a cause they find important.

You can sign up for WE Volunteer Now to learn more about how to start a volunteer campaign at your school.  You’ll also get access to grade-specific lessons you can use right away. Plus, 500 schools will receive a $250 grant to use towards their volunteer project.

The grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to all eligible schools/groups, to be used towards supporting your volunteer project! The eligible school or youth organization must:
  • Complete this application
  • Be based in the U.S.
  • Use the funds by October 2018
  • Include youth in grades K-12
  • Participate in the WE Volunteer Now Campaign

Get AP Credit

The We Volunteer Now kit contains ideas for teachers and students to brainstorm and helps students set goals. The kit also includes teacher checklists to help teachers keep students and themselves on track.  There are lessons for all grade levels that easily align with your current curriculum. For high school AP teachers there is an AP® with WE Service Course that allows teachers the opportunity to incorporate service learning into their existing AP courses. This gives students real world experiences with AP content that traditionally has a reputation of being rather dry and tedious.

Showcasing Student Volunteer Efforts Helps Schools Stand Out

There are many reasons to join WE Schools. Showcasing the wonderful ways your students are making the world a better place is a fantastic way to help your school stand out from the rest and garner community support. You can do this when students projects are finished educators have a great opportunity to celebrate and share the work on the school’s Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, website and other spaces.You can also share your results with We Volunteer Now for a chance to earn your way to WE Day. It’s a stadium-sized event (there are 6 held annually in select cities across the country!) that brings together amazing speakers and performers. And YOU and YOUR students could be honored, or students can tune in and watch them live! You can see what this looks like below.

In this hectic world of achievements and grades, it is tough for students (and their parents) to make the time for giving back. This post is brought to you by WeAreTeachers, Allstate Foundation, and the WE Volunteer Now grants that help schools and youth groups in their effort to give back to their local communities in a creative and unique way. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Apple, Google, & Microsoft... Oh My! Which is Best for Your School?

This week the #NYCSchoolsTech Team brought innovative educators a chance to hear directly from “The Big Three: Apple, Google, and Microsoft” (listed alphabetically). During this day-long event at state-of-the-art #NYCSchoolsTech center, educators from across the city came together to learn first-hand which is best for their schools.

School Platform Preference

#NYCSchoolsTech leader JoJo Farrell got the day started by asking educators to stand up if they were primarily:
A) Apple school.
B) Google school.
C) Microsoft school. 

Who do you think the winner was?  Watch this video to find out.
The answer, as seen on video, is "D" none of the above. It turns out that schools tend to use some of each and that’s a good thing.

Special Adviser for School Technology, Jason Levy drove that point home. When Levy served as principal of a struggling middle school, he was able to turn it around in part by his use of technology. This was featured in a PBS Frontline story called, “How Google Saved a School.”  However, he explained that the reality is it wasn’t only Google at his school. While the school used the Google Suite, they did so on Apple devices and with staff and colleagues Microsoft was the primary communication platform. As an informed school principal he knew the strengths of various platforms and resources and selected the right tool and device for the needs of students and staff.

At the "Big Three Summit" each vendor participated in a panel, had hands on demos at their booth, and presented to the audience to provide an overview of some of the highlights around how educators are using their resources for teaching and learning.  A theme across the three was AR/VR is a path each will be pursuing in the education space. Participants were also pleasantly surprised to learn that when it comes to cost, Chromebooks are no longer the clear winner. Their sensible price point has finally resulted in Apple and Microsoft driving down prices for students and they will offer less expensive devices.

There were some clear winners in other areas though.

Top Honors Go To:


  • Accessibility and assistive tech
  • High end design and performance: Apple


  • Device management 
  • Collaboration


  • Translation
  • Online communities for adults

Exciting news:

#NYCSchoolsTech educators were also in for some surprises as they heard from each of the vendors.


  • They have released a free “Everyone Can Create” curriculum that helps teachers weave creative areas like photography, music and filmmaking into their existing lesson plans using an iPad.
  • Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad starts at just $299 for schools and features enhanced cameras, advanced sensors and all-day battery life.



  • They are moving away from multiple versions of products so they will just look and feel nearly the same whether online or off.
  • With Microsoft Translations you can speak and in real time what you say can be translated to other languages.  Check out the video below to see this in action.

Support from Our Elected Official

One of the biggest advocates for effective use of technology in New York City schools, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attended to show her support to #NYCSchoolsTech educators and share some of what she is working on to advocate on their behalf. She said she is working to address increasing bandwidth in schools and she is also working to update what is allowable when upgrading tech in school with Capital funds to include tablets and Chromebooks. Brewer applauded #NYCSchoolsTech and “The Big Three” for doing the important work of creating public school / private industry partnerships.   

Who’s the Winner? The Verdict:

#NYCSchoolsTech educator Lliana Villegas summed it up this way, “I came here today thinking there would be a clear winner as far as which of the “Big Three” is right for our school. I left realizing, it depends.” She went on to explain that you must consider how you plan to use the device or platform and with whom to make the best decision about what works.  This event allowed her to do just that.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Force Copy: The G-Suite Tip Every Teacher Needs To Know

You know those simple tech tips that make a big difference?  For me it was learning Ctrl+K is the shortcut to hyperlink a word. I use this one constantly. 

I'm going to share one with you that you probably never knew you needed, but once you learn it you're going to come back here and thank me.  This tip is for anyone who values collaboration and if you're an innovative educator that means you. It also means you know there is no better platform for that than G-Suite. Now if you use G-Suite there are times that you want to share document with someone but you want them to use their own version. 

Examples are:

  • Creating an action plan
  • A presentation template for a conference
  • An agenda for a workshop that you want to share, but people should customize it for their setting
  • A invitation that people can customize for a specific audience

The problem with "Make a Copy."

The problem is when you direct others to "Make a Copy" things can go wrong:
  • Maybe the sharing settings aren't right.  
  • Maybe they share with the same people and then you have a bunch of copies you don't want. 
  • Maybe the person doesn't know how to find "Make a Copy" and you have to waste time explaining it, etc. 

Well, there is a super simple, easy peasy way you can force people to make a copy and it's not intuitive.  

How to create a force copy:

1) Create a document and you will generate a url. 
2) Delete the last four letters of your document url. The ones that say "edit"
3) In the place of “edit,” type “copy.”

Voila!  You did it.  Now anyone who you share the new url with will see this:

screen shot of the result where it says "Copy document"

Your turn 

Go ahead. Try it. Click on the following link with "copy" at the end and see what happens?

Pretty cool, right? You're welcome.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: #NYCSchoolsTech Summit - 7 p.m. Thursday

Join us for our monthly #NYCSchoolsTechChat on Thursday, May 3. We will discuss how we are going to share learning and learn more at this summer’s #NYCSchoolsTech Summit. 

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon  moderates with me throwing in my two cents. 

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1 What approaches are you using in your classroom to keep Q1 Let’s get newcomers excited. What advice do you have for newbies? What makes the trip worth it? Refresh your memory. See past workshops at this link. #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q2 At the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit you get to connect with vendors f2f. Who do you want to talk to? What do you want to learn? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q3 What are you most excited about learning at this year’s#NYCSchooslTech Summit? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q4 We want you to submit poster sessions! What are you doing in the classroom that could be a poster session? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q5 What is something you immediately put into practice after last years #NYCSchoolsTech Summit or hope to learn at this year’s Summit? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q6 Go into those archives and share some photos from last year’s #NYCSchoolsTech Summit. #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, May 3
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: #NYCSchoolsTech Summit
Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)

Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at

Sunday, April 29, 2018

After The Workshop: PD Comes to Life at PS 176

Innovative Educators understand the value of high-quality professional learning opportunities. They take what they learn and put it into practice in their schools and classrooms. I had the opportunity to connect with innovative educators who did just that during the annual Maker Faire at The Ovington Tinkering School in Brooklyn. At this school their motto is “Tinkers are Thinkers.” This Faire was conducted to showcase the work of all the tinkers who make up the school.  

But if it hadn’t been for the technology professional learning opportunities they attended, students never would have had the opportunity to dream big and engage in work that is worthy of the world.

From Summit & Workshops to Implementation

Principal Elizabeth Culkin explains the idea for this work came after she brought a team of teachers to the annual #NYCSchoolsTech Summit the year Dale Daugherty spoke.  She realized then that it was the work of her students that made up what Dale refers to as “The Greatest Show AND TELL On Earth.”

From there Culkin and her staff attended more tech summits, faires, workshops, camps, and certification programs to hone their craft and bring their learning to life in their school. The school's Tech Specialist, Stephen Amachee explained that one of the reasons he finds these workshops so valuable is that all material is available to participants digitally. Presentation materials, handouts, etc. That makes teaching the workshop back at their school to even more teachers possible.

Social Online Learning Provides Ongoing Support

In between these learning opportunities, the staff also turns to the power of their district’s online learning community #NYCSchoolsTech which connects tech learners and lovers (and those who support them) across New York City schools. There they receive ideas for inspiration and instant feedback for any questions or concerns that may arise when bringing what they learned back to their work.  

As a Teachers College Reading and Writing Project school, the staff teaches students that their work and voice can have a positive impact on the world.  The MakerFaire embraces that idea and highlights the school’s four core areas of focus where students aim to positively impact the world: Sustainability, engineering, robotics, and coding.

You can take a look at the innovative projects the students created in the photos below.

Your Turn

What do you think? How have you been inspired to bring back to your work, what you have learned during professional development opportunities?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Workplace, Teams, or Slack, Oh My! What's Right for You?

If you haven't heard, and it's likely you haven't, Microsoft launched a product called Teams in 2017 following the company's decision not to sink 8 billion dollars into the purchase of Slack. Instead, they decided to build out their Skype product and develop their own version of Slack. This is not good news for Slack. What it means is that institutions who already have O356 subscriptions will have access to Teams included in their subscription. 

However, when launched, Teams was a weak and buggy product. So Slack didn't have much to worry about. In the meantime, Facebook crept into the game as well offering a product called Workplace that looks, feels, and functions just like Facebook. No learning curve and it provides an intuitive ease of use. This meant companies like Walmart and Starbucks moved onto the platform as well as several non-profits and educational institutions who have access to the platform for free. But, the problems Facebook is facing in the news, and the fact that they won't guarantee free forever for education, makes Workplace a less desirable choice for some. 

Which to choose? Slack, Workplace, or Teams?

So, what to choose if you're an education institution? Slack? Expensive. Workplace? Not free forever and legal issues. Teams? Buggy and weak.

However, it seems Teams is making a move to get into the game and become a more serious contender.  I had complained to teams project manager Mike Tholfsen that even after they fixed the bugs and got features running, one big reason I wold never recommend Teams is because you are unable to link to a post. This is an imperative feature that no group moderator would want to live without. The absence of this feature means there is no way, other than sifting through hundreds or thousands of messages, to refer to a post.  Well, that issue has has finally been addressed putting teams back in the running.  

The Verdict

Teams still needs a lot of work. For example, it tries too hard not to be like Facebook so names are listed with an impersonal last name before the first name. You have to scroll to the bottom of a thread to add a message. Messages are listed from oldest at top to newest at bottom. It is also missing the important polling feature. Yes, there is a clunky process to add on polls, but it should just be a part of the platform.  

That said, for companies who already pay for O365, and are looking for an internal communication platform, Teams is on its way to becoming a viable online community that also now has video and phone conference features embedded (can be scheduled or instant), the option to have topic-specific conversations (called channels), and the ability to instant message.  

Your Turn

What do you think? Have you used Teams? If so, what did you think of it? Did you like it? If not, would you? Why or why not?