EdTech Update

The State Educational Technology Director’s Association (SETDA) recently created a new website called EdTech Update and the name says it all – it keeps you informed and updated on all the latest EdTech articles and trends. The site features content from Steve Anderson, Scott McLeod, Digital Learning Now, and WJU EdTech! Yes, I am excited to participate in this association of EdTech blogs.

Check it out here: (And in the future, just click the icon to the right!)

EdTech Update


It’s More than a TinyTap!

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I downloaded a fun new app today – TinyTap.  At first glance, I thought it might be for younger children, but with a little bit of creativity, this app can be used for a multitude of things! Begin with a layout (choose from one of theirs or create your own), add text, clip art, or images.

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Then finish it up by adding an activity.


An instructor could easily add PowerPoint slides, voice, video, and questions! The “game” is then shared via Twitter, Facebook, or sending an email link. Anyone with a web browser can play. Why not make a fun, interactive quiz? Here is my first attempt (basic, but you get the idea!):

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This all is good news in light of Horizon’s 2015 report…blended learning is ramping up! Take a look:

(Read the full Horizon report here.)


What Can We Do About This? 82% are Depressed!

On the counter at work this morning was the February 13, 2015 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. This is what I saw:

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Seriously – does that freak you out a bit? It does me! 82% driven but depressed? Yikes. Those are scary statistics.  The  survey found that college students party less…BUT worry more about money. While they are worrying about money and their course load, they are driven to reach higher levels of financial success. “Freshmen who indicated they wanted to earn a doctorate or professional degree also was at a new peak.”(Click here to read more.)”The survey suggests that the incoming freshmen ‘were buckling down prior to college and taking their academics more seriously,’ said Kevin Eagan, interim managing director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, which has administered the poll for 49 years.” My own son fits right into this category because he has the desire to obtain a Ph.D. in Physics. Positive? Yes. Driven? Yes. Depressed? Thankfully, he’s not depressed because he has a healthy balance in his life of work, school, church, fun, and friends. According to the article, 9.5% of the students surveyed said they were often depressed. Students seem to be more driven, busier than ever, yet unhappy.

So…I asked the student workers in my office…”What do you think of this? Do you think students at our school are depressed and why?”  One young gave his frank answer – those that may feel depressed or stressed are also the ones that are busy but less connected to people. He felt that the students that have been at our school since freshman year and have made connections tend to be happier than the ones transferring in who are less connected on the social level. I’m not talking social networking. I’m talking real connections…face-to-face friends they hang out with and enjoy.

I thought about my own students in the School of Education. They are on a 4 year credential program. It’s an awesome program that allows students to finish their degree AND obtain a California teaching credential all within 4 years. You can imagine – it’s a schedule that is cram packed and intensive. I see students that are stressed and exhausted.

What can we do about this? As teachers, we first must understand our audience. We need to know that our students have a strong desire to succeed yet may also be stressed and tired.  By looking at the reasons for some of the depression (worry, mental health, and lack of time for social events), we can find ways to help relieve some of this in our courses.

     1. Help students make connections. Allow for some collaboration time in class. Let students talk, work with a partner or group, discuss issues and problem solve together.

     2. Make learning fun.  I grappled with this as a new college instructor. I came from an elementary teaching background where I loved making learning fun for my students. Yet somehow when I entered the higher ed campus, I “thought” I had to lecture. Why? I don’t even know! One day it dawned on me – why am I doing this? Why not do something engaging that students will enjoy?  To be completely honest, I still grapple with how to get across my content across in an engaging manner, allow for collaboration and group work, and make class interesting for a tired group of students.

     3. Teach like a pirate. Dave Burgess wrote the book and I highly recommend it. It’s an acronym for:

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.08.08 AM     4.  Use Remind. Remind is a service that allows teachers to send a text message to students without sharing phone numbers. It’s an “opt in” from students…so they do not have to participate if they don’t want to. It’s easy to schedule messages in advance and then forget it! Schedule important due date reminders (remember – our students are crazy busy!). Or, schedule a friendly, “Hi, I hope your day is going well.”

5. Give exit tickets. Find out how students are doing. Ask them how the course is going. Find out if they have questions, concerns, or need help. Invite them to your office for a chat. Get to know them.

We’re all busy. But let’s not be so busy that we don’t get to know our students.

Take time to share a smile with a student today!

Google Makes TeleStory & Toontastic Free for Everyone

This is great news for educators!

Jonathan Wylie

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In surprising news today, Launchpad Toys announced that they had been acquired by Google. Ordinarily, this may not be of much interest to educators, but as of today, Toontastic and TeleStory are completely free for iOS devices and that includes all the in-app purchases that were previously a paid upgrade! Both apps are great storytelling apps for any classroom that uses iPads. Both apps are current favorites with educators, but their newly free features are about to earn them a whole lot of additional fans.

GOOGLE buys launchpad toysToontastic, if you have not previously tried it, is an amazing digital storytelling app for the iPad. Teachers everywhere love this app because it is simple to use and has a built-in story arc that actively encourage students to build a well-structured story. I have seen Toontastic used in Kindergarten all the way up to high school. Such is the versatility of this app…

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5 Great Software Functions!

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Typically there are 5 types of instructional software functions. Teachers must analyze a software carefully to determine which instructional function it will serve to ensure that it supports the needs of the class.

Drill and Practice

The nice thing about drill and practice software is that the programs often offer quick, simple feedback. Common functions might include flash card activities (such as StudyBlue) or branching drills that will move students on to advanced questions as they progress through the system. In order to help students master critical thinking skills, students must have what Bloom (1986) calls automaticity, the ability to recall lower order prerequisite skills.


Tutorial software offers self-contained instruction. Tutorials are linear (a simple, linear path regardless of student answers) or branching (more sophisticated for individual diagnosis and instruction). When selecting tutorial software, it is important to consider user control, feedback, graphics, and adequate record keeping. YouTube has many tutorial videos on almost any subject! (Just Google it.)  Khan Academy has become very popular for various tutorials on subject ranging from math and science to art and history!


A simulation is  a computerized model of a real or imagined system. Simulations are great when students need a real-life experience but may not be able to do it because of accessibility, control, or safety. Wieman and Perkins (2005) report research stated that interactive simulations in physics are frequently more effective than seeing actual demonstrations!  There are tons of wonderful simulation apps available for iOS and Android devices! One of my favorites is the 3-D Cell and Simulation app. It’s amazing!

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Instructional Games

There are many benefits to instructional games. The appeal stems around the desire for competition and play. Why not try an instructional game in place of a worksheet or offer as a reward?  Kahoot is an awesome way to play and review all at the same time! Teachers create the content and the game format is fun and engaging. Don’t be fooled by the picture of the elementary students on the Kahoot web site. Even higher education students enjoy Kahoot!

Problem Solving Software

Problem solving software promotes visualization and increases interest and motivation. Software usually provides the tools necessary to problem solve, environments that challenge students to use critical thinking skills, and opportunities for practice. The Geometer’s Sketchpad is an example of a site that provides problem solving software to support math skills. Photomath reads and solves mathematical equations by using the camera of your mobile device!

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The Water Effect

On a beginning note…this has nothing to do with technology so if you want to skip this post, I understand. But, I hope you will read on! Since technology is such a great tool, I want to share one way YOU can make a difference…

In 2013 I traveled with World Vision and was able to meet 2 of my 4 sponsored children. I visited Abaya, Ethiopia, and was able to see all that World Vision truly does for the families…providing clean water, an education, training, medical, and even nutritional needs.  As a Child Ambassador, I am committed to helping children in need.


Right now World Vision is promoting clean water and as a blogger, I want to pass it on. I have SEEN first hand the water of Ethiopia before World Vision provided fresh water (wells) to the villagers of Abaya. I was able to visit the watering hole and even pick up one of those HEAVY 5 gallon jugs of water. I don’t know how those women actually balance it on their heads…I could barely walk 10 feet with one! The water was filthy, muddy, and infested with worms.  This is the water that the families used for everything…drinking and bathing until World Vision built a community well with access to fresh, clean water.


Every day, nearly 1,600 children under 5 die from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. Globally, 1 in 9 people lack access to clean water! Those are amazingly sad statistics.

Would you like to be a part of providing fresh water to a child in need? Contact me! I have many children that need sponsoring!