Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Leyden's First Robot Student... Wait, what?

Say hello to, well, I'm not sure it has an official name yet.  I've heard options like R2D212 (my personal favorite), C3CMe (another good one), or maybe just Double.  Whatever the name ends up being isn't nearly as exciting as the opportunities this unit provides.  Thanks to Double Robotics, Leyden now has a Double 2 telepresence robot that can simply become the physical presence for a student that cannot attend school.  Think video hangout on wheels.  The student uses either a web interface or iPad/iPhone app to drive the robot around (yep, even from class to class), uses the cameras and microphone/speaker to interact with teachers and other students, and has the ability to take photos or share a website.  This robot allows students that would otherwise be disconnected from school to fully participate in most of the daily activities.

We don't have a specific student user in mind just yet as we are still learning how to operate and maintain the robot.  Our East Leyden Tech Support Intern (TSI) students are currently experimenting and learning as much as they can.  Once we get the hang of it, we'll determine how to best implement the robot and who might qualify to use it.  I'm confident it will become a valuable tool that does more than make appearances on The Bachelor and Modern Family.

I do have to admit that when we first started looking at this robot, it was hard not to think about how cool it would be to have one for myself.  I mean, I could finally be in two places at one time. That dream quickly dissipated after we watched the following case study from Sebasticook Valley Middle School, which put the focus back to where it should always be, on our students:

Stay tuned for more posts on how the robot gets used at Leyden, and what we eventually name it.  In the meantime, check out the Double Robotics Customer Stories page for more interesting case studies and usage stories.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

E-Learning Days at Leyden

scene from the 1985 movie Real Genius

Disclaimer: We are not replacing teachers with computers or other electronic media.

However, when snow accumulates to impenetrable depths or temperatures plummet to dangerous levels or for other reasons that may have required Leyden schools to close in the past, a new opportunity is now available.  Leyden High School District 212 has been chosen as one of three districts in the state of Illinois to pilot E-Learning days.
The overall goal for Leyden's participation in this pilot is to allow courses to keep moving forward without needing to make up days at the end of the school year.  With state testing windows, AP tests, graduations, and other activities being locked into our schedules, the ability to utilize E-Learning days becomes extremely helpful to keep everyone on track.  Because Leyden has been a 1:1 district since 2012-2013 where every student gets issued a Chromebook and through the evolution of the activities implemented by our teachers that appropriately utilize various technologies, E-Learning days are a natural fit in District 212.  In many cases, an E-Learning day will almost be business as usual for our teachers and students, just outside the physical classroom space (which is already occurring on a regular basis at Leyden).

So, how will E-Learning days work at Leyden?  Here's a brief outline of our plan:
  1. If it can be determined that school needs to be closed by 8:00 PM of the day prior to the closing, the Leyden Superintendent can enact an E-Learning day.
  2. Multiple methods of communication regarding an E-Learning day replacing a regular school day will take place.  These include the following: notice on the district's website; automated phone calls to parents and guardians; and posts on social media.
  3. Every teacher will send an email to their students by 9:00 AM on an E-Learning day that will outline the instructional goals for the day, provide the necessary resources for the learning activities, identify the evidence the students will need to produce to demonstrate their learning, and clearly communicate how the students will be assessed.  The email will also include a link to an online Google Form that students must fill out by 1:00 PM on an E-Learning day to be counted as "present" in their class.  This means each student will need to review emails from each of their teachers and fill out a separate attendance form for each of their classes.
  4. Teachers will review the Google Form submissions and enter their attendance information into the regular attendance system before the end of the day.
That's really about it.  Teachers and students will not be following the traditional bell schedule.  There is no requirement of teachers and students to work synchronously together, however teachers are encouraged to identify times during the day that they can be available to answer questions, provide feedback, or interact with their students.  There is no mandate as to the learning platform that must be utilized.  E-Learning days really boil down to teachers designing effective lesson plans that can be distributed electronically, that implement various technologies to support the learning process (Google Apps tools, Hapara's Workspace, online LMS, YouTube, EDpuzzle, VoiceThread, Discovery Education, Socrative, Blogger, and so many more), and provide the opportunity for Leyden students to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and create.

An essential component to being able to run a successful E-Learning day is, of course, ensuring that all Leyden students have Internet connectivity in their homes.  We solved that challenge earlier this school year when we started distributing Sprint mobile hotspots to those students that need them (read my previous Closing The Connectivity Gap For Leyden Students blog post).

Here's a great video put together by a few administrators and students that was shared with all students to explain E-Learning days at Leyden:

Stay tuned for other blog posts that I'll share with details on how any E-Learning days play out.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Closing The Connectivity Gap For Leyden Students

Leyden High School District 212 is now in its fourth year of being fully 1:1.  Every student is issued a district-owned Dell Chromebook to use both at school and at home.  The students even keep their devices over the summer.  We've learned and grown a lot over the past four years and have been happy to share our experiences with anyone interested (check out some of our resources and events here).  One obstacle that we had not decided to eliminate, until now, was the lack of connectivity for some of our students when they are at home.  We certainly knew going into our first year of 1:1 that some of our students didn't have connectivity at home but chose to apply some band aides like extending our school library hours, compiling a list of free WiFi locations in our communities on a Google Map, encouraging students to visit the local libraries, pushing the low-cost Comcast Internet Essentials program for free or reduced lunch students, and training students about Google Drive's offline access on their Chromebooks.  This seemed to be adequate for a while, but we recently decided that adequate was no longer good enough.  Over the last 6 months or so, we have been researching permanent solutions to close the connectivity gap for our students.  Through the Sprint ConnectED grant, we are moving forward with issuing mobile hotspots to those students that do not have connectivity for their Chromebooks in their homes.

Here's how we are finally closing the connectivity gap for Leyden students:
  • We applied and got accepted into the Sprint ConnectED grant.
  • We asked all students to fill out a Google Form to indicate if they can connect their Chromebooks to the Internet when they are at home.  The results came back suggesting that just over 17% of our students do not have connectivity at home.
  • We mailed a letter to the parents/guardians of the self-identified students describing our goals and plans for closing the connectivity gap and informing them about mandatory meetings during our parent/teacher conferences to learn more, validate their student's response to not having connectivity at home, and to sign off on a contract to allow their student to receive a mobile hotspot.
  • The technology department reviewed the available devices through the ConnectED grant and chose a device that will allow us to pair each hotspot with one student Chromebook and disable the ability to manually reset those devices.  This will prevent the family and friends of the students from using the hotspot and gobbling up the allotted monthly data.  This should also prevent the possibility for families with Internet access to cancel their accounts in order to get a hotspot from Leyden.
  • We do not have to worry about any extra content filtering as all of our Chromebooks are already filtered everywhere they go.  A CIPA-approved filter would be available through the hotspots if we need it.
  • As the parent/guardian contracts get signed and the devices begin to arrive, we will start contacting the students with instructions to bring their Chromebooks to a location to have a hotspot linked to their Chromebook and officially checked out.
  • Should a student with a hotspot need to turn in his/her Chromebook for service, we will either ask that student to bring in his/her hotspot to link it to the loaner Chromebook he/she gets assigned or possibly just issue a loaner hotspot with the loaner Chromebook.  We are still thinking about this one and may experiment with both options.

With all of the time and effort the Leyden teachers and students have put into adapting to Leyden's 1:1 digital teaching and learning environment, this next step of closing the connectivity gap for our students when they are at home is the right move for District 212.  We are excited to see how this plays out!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Another 39 West Leyden Faculty/Staff Become Google Educators

A few months ago, a first group of West Leyden faculty and staff completed their 4-month journey to becoming Google Educators (blog post here).  With the success of that program, it was decided to immediately run it again but with an accelerated timeline.  As of today, 39 more West Leyden faculty and staff have become Google Educators.  Here is some info from West Leyden librarian Janine Asmus (@asmusj), one of the organizers and leaders of this program:
"The educators and Support Staff members listed below committed to a whirlwind professional development experience!  They attended 10 Lunch and Learn sessions that began in early April and ended today.  They became Google Educators by studying independently and reviewing with us. They took detailed exams on Gmail, Docs/Drive, Calendar, Sites and the Chrome browser.  They earned an 80% or better on each test. 
Upon reflection, what made this professional development opportunity work so well was the willingness of our participants.  They were eager to learn more about the tools they use daily. Moreover, we enjoyed the collegiality and camaraderie we experienced. Having a technology coach and a librarian partner to deliver much-needed content was a win/win."
Rick MasonTerie CollettiJill Ethridge
Nadia Ruiz-LopezPete Karamitos
ArtAysha ShedbalkarJessica Kelly
Lynette RosenShelia Kraft
MusicLaura Moran
Business EdPatrick BakerRosanne Orsi
Eric McFaddenStacy Cunningham
Tim MurphyMichelle VazquezSupport Staff
Frank Bavone
EnglishPELouise Jarke
Kerri KennedyMark ValintisJuli Kasper
Steve MartenMary Kelly
John RossiScienceLilli Kruml
Karen SchumppPat GodziszewskiIsabelle Pouliot-Kunca
Georgia StavrouliasHina PatelStephanie Ramirez
Melissa PreglerKim Rentner
Ind TechKeith Rogers
Frank HolthouseSocial StudiesDaina Shuipys
David RoseJasmina Sleimovic
Caryn Thomas

A big congratulations goes out to all of the Leyden faculty and staff that have become Google Educators this year!  We are hoping to expand this program to even more people next year.  In the meantime, I'd appreciate hearing from the newest Leyden Google Educators about their experience and why this became a goal of theirs.  Please leave a comment on this post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

37 New Google Educators at Leyden

For the past 5+ years, Leyden High School District 212 teachers and students have been using Google Apps for Education.  In 2012-2013, when the district went 1:1 by issuing Chromebooks to all 3,400 students, the Google Apps tools quickly took center stage and started a transformation that permeated the district's teaching and learning environment.  Recently, I learned that a number of educators at the West Leyden campus decided to take their knowledge of the powerful suite to the next level.  Led by librarian Janine Asmus and instructional tech coach Todd Veltman, 34 certified staff and 1 administrator started meeting in mid-November and formed a study/support group to take on the challenge of becoming certified Google Educators.  They met a number of times during their lunch periods to learn together and quiz each other on the information needed to pass the series of tests to become certified.  The requirements for becoming a Google Educator include passing the four core exams (Gmail, Calendar, Sites, and Docs and Drive) and one elective exam (Chrome Browser, Chromebooks, Google Play for Education, or Android Tablets for Education).  Together, the motivated and courageous teachers put in their time, did the studying, and worked toward their goal.  After passing the four core exams, they invited me to their last meetings to help them learn more about the Chromebook management configurations and settings before tackling the last exam that stood between them and their certifications.  I am thrilled to announce that they completed that exam yesterday and have fulfilled the requirements to become certified Google Educators.  It is with some serious #leydenpride that I'd like to congratulate the following Leyden teachers on becoming documented experts of the tools they use everyday with their students to transform education and hope this begins a trend for other teachers to follow.  I’d really enjoy hearing from these teachers in the comments as to why they embarked on this journey and what they learned from it.

AdmininstrationModern LanguagesSpecial Education
Andrew SharosKojo ClarkeMarianna DeFillppis
Anne GruettnerSonja Kosanovic
Business EducationCatherine O' RourkeRyan McSherry
Michael HaworthKristen Navar
Shannon O'ConnorMusicKatie Talsma
Bryan MillerRick Van Roeyen
Family & Consumer Sciences
Valarie BergerPhysical EducationStudent Services
Laurie FossByron BenionKarin Dewey
Kevin BrockwayMarijana Uremovic
LiteracyWilliam CordtsJavier Vasquez
Jane HyinkJoe Fezzuoglio
Kara KennedyStudent Supports
Jennifer LazarScienceJanine Asmus
Jamie LitzhoffJulie Krueger
MathTodd Veltman
Jeremy BabelSocial Studies
Marian VolenecFrank Diebold
Matt YoungChristopher Lange
Sandie Leonard
Kevin Pluchar
Lisa Ripley

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Leyden at the 2015 ICE Conference

Here is a list of the presentations that Leyden faculty are running at the 2015 ICE Conference:

Title: Using Technology in The Physics Classroom - The Do's and Don'ts (workshop)
Presenters: Joe Ruffolo and Todd Veltman
Date: Tuesday, February 24
Time: 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM
Room: TBA

Title: Empowering Student Voice
Presenters: Andrew Sharos and Leyden students
Date: Thursday, February 26
Time: 11:00-11:45 am
Room: Main Stage Amphitheater

Title: Panel Discussion - Thinking about going 1:1? Get strategies, best practices, and policies that have worked for these successful districts that have gone 1:1 with iPads, Chromebooks, and Android Tablet devices.
Presenter: Panel including Bryan Weinert
Date: Thursday, February 26
Time: 2:45-3:30 PM
Room: Augusta I/II

Title: Women in Technology
Presenter: Amy Gorzynski
Date: Friday, February 27
Time: 10:00-10:45 AM
Room: Salon III

Title: The Online Learning Environment
Presenter: Eric McFadden
Date: Friday, February 27
Time: 2:45-3:30 PM
Room: Sapphire

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More Great Updates to EDpuzzle

I just received the following email from EDpuzzle about some new updates:

Short email to share a few improvements that we built in EDpuzzle this week: 

- Upload image. Add an image to your questions directly from your laptop or tablet. 

- Full screen mode for students.  Students can have a better experience focusing, just on the video-lesson. 

- Android users: "Chrome browser + Full screen = Awesome results". It's almost like an App.

Video-summary (90seconds): http://quick.as/5BkAczv8

Have a great day and let us know if there is anything else we can do.

Kind regards,


And here's an email from a few weeks ago:

Short email to explain the new improvements in EDpuzzle:

1. New landing page: easier for the students and teachers.

2. New editing page: Clean, beautiful and easy to use. Everything is saved automatically and you can drag and drop the questions.

Here is a short video that gives you a quick tour through the new improvements: http://quick.as/31qzupqe

Give it a try and share it with other teachers! The more the merrier! :)

Have a wonderful weekend,


I still think EDpuzzle is one of the greatest free tools that teachers can use for teaching and learning.  I even think there could be some value for professional development opportunities and plan to try it out for that purpose.  Here are links to me previous posts about EDpuzzle: