instructional tech, Training

Is Striving For Excellence Worth It?

I have a house. It is a lovely home, but there are areas that need improvement. For example, my bathtub is being used as a plant holder for a large plant over the winter. I have a closet hanging rod that is coming out of the wall, and my husband’s bathroom sink faucet is broken. It needs some help. But the flip side is that we could continue sharing my sink and taking showers and hanging clothing on a different rod. In theory, we could continue this way for quite some time. Or, I could put energy, time, and money into this area in order to make it more functional, beautiful, and engaging.

All of this got me thinking how easy it is to just stay with the status quo instead of trying to do better. We are faced with these situations often in life and no more so than in our classrooms. It begs the question “Is striving for excellence worth it?” Now, if you saw the rest of my house, you will already know where I am going with this. Of course it is worth it, and you better believe I will have that new bathroom asap!

But teachers, it is the same with your technology integration. It is wonderful that you are now using things like Google Classroom or Schoology to deliver content. It is awesome that you have things like Chromebooks or iPads at your disposal for student use. But are you incorporating growth and excellence with these tools or are you just simply coasting along using substitution methodology.

Edutopia recently published an excellent article about just this thought. Beth Holland along with Ann Feldmann, Jeffery Bernadt, and Jeannette Carlson analyzed the idea of innovation vs. digitization. They point out excellent things to consider when moving towards redefinition with technology integration


You must ask yourself how far you are willing to go to be excellent at technology integration. Are you coasting along or are you pushing the limits of what you have at your disposal? Do your students have choice on how they learn the curriculum? Are they publishing their own creations to the world? Have you established ways for students to learn at their own pace? Can you say that you utilize social media for more enhanced learning opportunities?

The journey of tech integration is just that. A journey. We can all improve and must improve. It takes time and commitment. Stay the course, stay connected, stay a learner.

“Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.”

 A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

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instructional tech, Training, Uncategorized

Five Awesome Tools to Better Your Trainings

Many of us have sat through boring trainings witnessing the trainer attempting to encourage participants to speak up or ask questions. There is usually one or two people who will raise their hand and ask a question or two. Or worse, you get the person who just can’t help but to talk too much and input their opinions or stories. You can feel it when the room starts to get annoyed with those individuals who just do not know when to stop interrupting with their own agendas. Or, you feel bad for the trainer in front of you who cannot, for the life of them, get their audience engaged.

Luckily, there are many other ways to control the audience and limit disruptions while increasing engagement of all the participants.

Here are five great tools that not only increase their participations, but also encourages collaboration.

  1.  Padlet is an interactive blackboard that provides a space where multiple users can post content. It’s basically a digital sticky note collection.  Use Padlet as a place for questions, examples, thoughts, and reflections before, during and after your training.  Be sure to monitor the ideas as they go up in order to provide accurate feedback to the group.
  2. Google Presentations.  Using Google Presentations during a training session is a great way to crowd source and organize content. You can create a template prior to the session and share it to your audience. Use grouping strategies to assign certain parts of the slides to certain groups. This can be used as a collaborative activity that crowd sources ideas and example centered around a topic. The beauty of Google is its share-ability and collaborative aspects. Use this as a closing exercise or a brainstorming exercise at the beginning of your training.
  3. Twitter. Create a particular hashtag for the training day and set aside specific tweeting times. Have your audience members tweet out questions, thoughts, ideas, and links to deepen the comprehension of the training topics. To take this even further as a trainer, let some of your PLN know that you will be hosting a session and tweet to them. They will in turn tweet back making the session more interesting.
  4. is an alternative to Twitter if, for example, your audience members are not tweeters. Its a secure back channeling website that is exclusive to your audience. Simply create your account and share the link to your participants. Once they join your room, they will be able to post to the discussion board. Use helpful cues such as Q for question to prompt discussions.  It is also helpful to have questions already created in order to maximize the effectiveness of this tool.
  5. iTunesU now has a discussion feature embedded in its software. This works well if you are running your training session out of an iTunesU classroom environment. This is also secure only to the members of your session.  This feature is great for discussions and reflections. All of the members of the session will see everyone else’s post just like the previously mentioned tools.our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load. Queen Elizabeth II

Whether you are putting together an hour of training or two days of training, these tools are a must for active participation. They are easy to set up and truly make a difference in the quality of your sessions. Do you have a favorite tool you use for audience participation? Leave me a comment and let me know the tool and what you like about it!


instructional tech, Training

Build Your Best Training Session Ever!

In my years as an educator, I’ve been an Instructional Technology Coach, Instructional Technology Trainer, Computer Lab teacher, and classroom teacher. I’m now an online instructor and the Director of Training at Score Publishing. Like many educators, I’ve sat through endless PD sessions, created hundreds of sessions myself, and attended numerous conferences. I’ve heard some amazing speakers and learned a lot from smarter people than myself on platforms like Twitter. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few tricks that I use in my teaching and training today. The Haiku Deck below is an overview of each philosophy I try to incorporate into every training I deliver.

So often, companies enter a room with a prepared PowerPoint, stand and deliver, then leave. These types of trainings are a waste of time. Dont do this! Instead, create an environment for your learners that direct them to collaborative spaces like Google docs. Bring in an expert on the topic via video, have learners share ideas and reflections on spaces like Padlet or Twitter. There are so many ways to take a training session to the next level by leveraging technology tools.

Educators need to have trainings that understand their needs. They need to have access to the trainers after a session. They need to leave the room excited and empowered.

I want to share my current training philosophy with you. I’m passionate about delivering engaging and transforming training sessions despite the topic. If I’ve left something off that you feel is necessary, please leave me a comment. I must also add that I have had some amazing team members to work with like @annfeldmann1, @mrsjcarlson, and @catlett1. These people helped me shape my ideas on what makes a great training session. As @annfeldmann1 says, “we are better together,” and I have to agree with her.
Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

instructional tech, Uncategorized

Four Great Ways to Stay Epic in Your Classroom

created by me at

This time of year can be challenging for teachers because it is the time of testing, test prepping, and yearning for that upcoming spring break. Students begin counting the days until summer and graduation. Last night at our dinner table my teens had the number down pat! 58 more actual school days and 93 total days till graduation. The school year is a roller coaster of ups and downs, fatigue and energy, testing and “thanks goodness that test is over!”, ups and downs.


I encourage you to stay fresh in your ideas and teaching during this time of year no matter how much your neighboring teacher is complaining of exhaustion and frustration. Stay true to your passion to educate and engage your students. Here are four ways to stay current, excited, and fresh in your teaching.


  • Being a connected educator on Twitter is one of the best things I have done as an educator. Twitter feeds me new ideas, brings new people into my professional life, and inspires me to continue my own learning. Try participating in a Twitter chat to discover new ideas and connect with educators just like you. Check out this list of online educational chats happening everyday on Twitter. If being connected on Twitter doesn’t push you to learn something new everyday, nothing will! Remember that if you are new to Twitter it might feel a little slow at first, but once you start popping into chats and following the right people, it will pick up momentum. I tell new teachers to Twitter to click on who I am following and then start following those people. It isn’t perfect, but its a start to finding the right educators to follow.


  • Edcamps are a stress free and fun way to learn from other professionals and its completely learner driven. Edcamps have no set agenda and anyone can share information and lead sessions. Teachers, administrators, and other educators are welcome to come. Edcamps can be found across the nation. Check out the list of Edcamps here.

Your Students

  • Sometimes inspiration is right in front of us. Ask your students what their passion project would be and what it would look like. I have seen passion projects, or genius hour completely revive a classroom with excitement and interest. Read this teacher’s blog about her middle school genius hour. We get so caught up in teaching to a scripted curriculum that we can miss opportunities to engage students more deeply in content for which they are passionate. Letting your students lead the way can energize you and your students. I see a lot of teacher wait to begin until after all the testing is over. I say go ahead and jump in now! You will be amazed at what your students come up with.

Online Courses

  • Taking an online course can inspire you in a couple of ways. First, it  provides CEU’s or CCU’s, (insert your preferred acronym here). These credit hours usually help you move increase your salary. Who doesn’t like the idea of higher pay?! And secondly, you will be able to learn some great information in a really short time. Quality online courses are well organized, packed full of great content, and thoroughly engaging as well as available 24/7. Check out the online courses at for educational technology courses for about half the price of most online classes. Their classes are accredited through Brandman University, in California.

Take heart that spring is here and keep your teaching fresh with these ideas. What is your favorite way to stay current and engaged with teaching? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts!

ibooks author, instructional tech, iPad

5 Design Elements to Consider When Writing Your iBook

Creating your iBook with Apple’s iBooks Author software is an exciting project!  You’ve got the content, ideas about which widgets you want to use, and maybe you even have the intro media ready to throw in. Great! But before you dig in, stop to consider your design. This is probably the most overlooked aspect of creating a high quality iBook.

When I facilitate the writing of iBooks during teacher trainings and professional development, I discuss the importance of good design. Fortunately for me, I get to work with a great graphic designer, George Otvos of Ego Design. Good design in an iBook makes your book easy to read and content easy to find. Colors, fonts, images, and the careful placement of widgets and videos are critical design elements to consider.

Design post


Stay away from too many colors in your text, shapes, and lines.  Choose no more than three main colors for your book and stick with it.  Bold colors are better than bright, and black and yellow are easy to read for most people.  You can favorite your colors in the inspector so that they are easy to find to apply to your text and images.  I am a big fan of the basic white background and black text and using one color to highlight important vocabulary or key sentence.  Here are some things to consider when choosing your color scheme.


Your fonts needs to be clean. It is tempting to combine fonts. If you do so, make sure they are either in the same family or they are completely different. Try to stay away from two fonts that are very decorative. Look for sans and sans-serif fonts. This means they are in the same family and will match if you choose to go that direction.

You can also choose one font and use it throughout your iBook but distinguish headings and chapter headings with a heavier weight and size. iBooks Author will have these weights and sizes already set up for your as text type, but you can customize these at will.  The main point is to keep your fonts clean and do not mix more than two different fonts.  Find more food for thought on fonts here.


Using open sources images can really improve the look of your iBook. I encourage teachers to use their own images that they have culminated or find a good graphic designer to help them create templates to use throughout their iBook.  If you are going the route of online images from copyright free images, be sure to crop, rotate, and frame out your images before you place them inside your iBook.  Don’t forget to consider the best placement for your image and refrain from more than one image per page.


The placement of widgets should be very clean.  Avoid placing a widget in the middle of your text.  I recommend text on one side of the landscape view and a widget to go with the content on the opposite page. Keeping your pages clutter free and clean will help your reader engage with the content more easily. You can set your widgets to open into their own screen as well thus giving you more space to work with.  Read more about the different kind of widgets here.


Video within your iBook becomes an amazing teaching and sharing tool. Before you drop your movie file onto your iBook page, be sure that you have cropped it to the desired length. Even though you can set the start and stop places within inspector, it will be faster to export if you have already cropped it up. I like to use Quicktime or iMovie to crop up my videos before placing them into the iBook. You do not need to worry about optimizing the video as iBooks Author will do that for you when it is published.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of having a critical friend. Do the same with your iBook. Get a few people to check it out in preview mode before publishing it to see how they react to the design of your book. Most people will just be in awe of the fact that you’ve got yourself an iBook to publish to the iBook store! Always use a critical eye to be sure your design is as good as it can be. And as always, feel free to reach out to Score Publishing if you are in need of a graphic designer or publisher for your book. Happy iBooking!

ibooks author, instructional tech, iPad, Uncategorized

Have iPads in Your Classroom? Use iBooks Author!!

widgetsMany institutions are continuing to move towards a 1:1 iPad environment.  It’s been an interesting thing to watch as early adopters of iPad technology and digital content users slowly infiltrate the education realm. Typically technology evolves and  tools change, but iPads seem to have the staying power that truly transforms classrooms.

Along with this digital shift comes many questions. One question is “How do I get student textbooks on the iPads?” Some institutions purchase the electronic version of a textbook. Most of these resources are simply epub versions. This means there is little if any interactivity in this type of book. In this case one is simply digital content for paper. This is not transformational.

In order to transform your classrooms and utilize the power of iPads, use iBooks Author to create interactive books for your students.  Teachers constantly curate materials from Youtube videos, self made resources, online articles, and discussion forums.  If you are a one of these teachers and your students are using iPads in classes, then iBooks Author should be the tool for you!

iBooks Author gives you the ability to create beautiful textbooks that become interactive experiences for your students.  As I have written in my previous post, the easiest way to deliver your books to your students is through iTunesU.

What makes iBooks author so unique are widgets and media. The best part is you do not need to code anything yourself.  iBooks Author does it for you.


Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.12.35 PM

Widgets are basically coded placeholders for interactive information.  The widgets inside of iBooks Author are Media, Scrolling sidebar, Pop-Over, Keynote, Gallery, Interactive Image, 3D, and HTML.  Each of these widgets does something unique to create an interactive experiences for the reader. Other third party widget creators that I love are and These sites help you create many other HTML widgets that can be downloaded and dropped right on a page in iBooks Author.  Some of my favorite widgets from these sites are word searches, crossword puzzles, quizzes, and embedded websites.



Using the Media widget within iBooks Author allows you to simply drop in a Keynote presentation, a video, or an audio file. Teachers can record their lecture and drop it in their book, or create a how-to screen recording and drop it into a books, or add an audio recording into their book for greater accessibility features.

If you have some text, media rich information, and the desire to use some widgets to create a more interactive experience for your students, then you are set to learn how to use iBooks Author! If you want more information on how to become and iBooks Author Guru, please leave me a comment or email me at


My next post will be all about design elements to consider before creating your iBook.

instructional tech

Six Tips for a Successful Collaborative Student Doc

image from pioneer

Looking for a new way for students to collaborate while researching and taking notes?  Google Docs is a great way for students to create collaborative notes while researching a topic.  Students can access their research notes from anywhere and you as their teacher can monitor their work and progress.  You can view their progress by time stamp under file>see revision history.  It creates a collaborative working environment that they can work on at home, school, or anywhere they are online.

Collaborative group work takes a little organizing up front to ensure success. Here are six ways to set up your kids for amazing results when working together on a Google Doc.


  1. Group students in a way that makes the most sense.  For example, if you want your students to work in pairs have them name an A and a B.  This helps when giving the next directions.
  2. Have one person, A, create a document, name it, and then share it to their partners and you, the teacher with edit rights.  Naming conventions are important so have students put the last name of each group member in the title as well as the name of the assignment.  For example a title might look like this, Smith, Jones, Andrews, Biome Research. Allow group members to access their new shared document under the Share with me in their Google Drive.
  3. Create an organized example doc to project to the class and have students replicate it.  

    Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.52.13 PM
    example set up for researching biomes
  4. Use tables as a way to organize information. Simply insert a table and give it some headers to keep student work organized. This also helps to clarify who will be doing what. As students type their findings into the table it will expand.  
  5. Have each student choose a color and a font in which to type.  Again, this helps everyone know who is who and colors help the brain decipher information.  
  6. Encourage students to use Google Drawing instead of simply copying images off the web onto their document. Google drawings can be found under Insert>Drawing on the doc.  


One middle school teacher used this method in her science class.  Her students were excited to be able to easily collaborate using Google.  I overheard two students excitedly exclaim, “I am going to work on this tonight and we can use the chat feature!”   

There are always unexpected teaching opportunities and outcomes, when teachers try something new with their students.  For this lesson the teacher discovered that it created the opportunities to teach digital citizenship, respect for others work, copyright rules and law, as well as learning to accept constructive criticism.  Do you have unique ways that you use Google Docs with kids beyond a simple word processing tool?  Please share your examples or ideas here or tweet them to @jennyktechin!