Friday, November 15, 2019

Fall 2019 Chromebook Buyers Guide

I originally wrote this for my class blog @HeathcoteTech. After receiving multiple emails from parents with personal device/Chromebook questions I figured I'd turn my email replies into a more structured "buyers guide" of sorts. The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and crafted with 2nd-5th graders in mind, as that is the population I teach. This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list of the "best" Chromebooks on the market.

This is the second annual Chromebook Buyers Guide. Chromebooks are great devices for elementary school students and beyond. There are lots of options and hopefully this guide will give you a sense of why go Chromebook and which models(s) to check out. Enjoy...

As the years have progressed there has been an ever increasing interest from parents to purchase Chromebooks for home use. Awesome!
I think it's an excellent idea and a great investment, we use them every day at school and I have four in my home.
Before I get into some device specifics I want to touch on a few common points of interest from parents...
By Koman90 [BSD (, CC BY 2.5  ( or GPL (], from Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Interactive Whiteboard Alternatives

One of the biggest, literally, things in edtech is the interactive whiteboard. Smartboards, Promethean, there are a few manufacturers.

My district uses Smartboards. I'm not a fan. This post isn't a rant on why I don't like them, the purpose of this post is to outline an alternative, but to give some context, here is why I'm not a fan, and never have been, of interactive whiteboards...
  • they are expensive. $3k+ is a lot to spend on a single item
  • they are a central focal point... but classes should be flexible and fluid, a large fixed object like an interactive white board take up a lot of classroom real estate and are only used a small portion of the day
  • most users only use a fraction of capabilities
    • that may be due to lack of training, or that those features are bells and whistles and don't fit seamlessly into a teacher's workflow.. either way it's an issue
  • they only do one thing
    • ok, so not literally one thing, but a large, fixed object, no matter how "flexible" or "versatile" it's still a piece of furniture

So, what's the alternative?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

ACTEM 2019 Reflections

ACTEM is the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine. I had the pleasure of attending their fall conference this year and it was a blast.

Maine is doing some great things with technology, with state support and the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI)...

In 2002, Maine became the first state to provide a personal portable computer device to each 7th and 8th grade student and teacher, along with the software, wireless networks, technical support, and professional development needed to effectively use the technology for teaching and learning.  Read more about the groundbreaking MLTI program on the History page.

The program has changed somewhat over the years, but the goal remains the same:  to provide State support for access to technology-enhanced educational experiences for all students. In the 2018-19 school year, the State will be helping over 300 schools obtain educational technology and the professional learning necessary to take advantages of all that technology offers.
The conference had the usual slate of featured keynotes and breakout sessions. What I found so valuable was for the relative small size of the conference (a few hundred attendees) the quality of the presentations, and skill/knowledge of the presenters, was amazing.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Student headphones: an overview and some recommendations - 2019-2020 edition

This piece originally appeared on my @HeathcoteTech class blog

At the start of the 2018-2019 school I wrote the first blog post regarding student headphones. This edition is essentially the same, has the same rational and overview with updated links. Headphones for children don't change as frequently as high-end adult models, so this post is almost identical to last year's post, with updated links.

I often get asked about headphones for students. It’s a difficult question to answer on many fronts. Price is one concern, but so is durability. A microphone is an important consideration since students use apps like Seesaw to record their learning. And their age. A kindergartner has different needs than a 5th grader in terms of size, fit, and functionality.

Here is a breakdown of how I approach the K-5 headphone question…

Monday, July 15, 2019

CapCon! 2019 is in the books

Every year the 5th graders of Scarsdale participate in Capstone. Capstone is the last two months of school, post-standardized testing. Students choose a topic, research it, and create a final product. It is designed to be a self-directed, passion/interest based assignment. And it used to end with a tri-fold board... But not since 2016!
This post was originally written for the @HeathcoteTech blog and first appeared at
Once again the 5th graders were amazing and rocked the CapCon! Capstone event.
The students documented the process on their own blogs. The blogs can be accessed via the classroom teacher’s blogs (look for the “My class” menu on the sidebar).
Check out all of their speeches and movies here:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Basecamp 2019

June 27th, 2019. The first day of summer vacation. But it was also #Basecamp2019 hosted by Chappaqua Schools!

It was a great way to end the school year and kick off summer; reconnecting with colleagues and friends, meeting new ones, sharing, learning... it was a great finish to the year and a perfect way to start the summer.

One of my favorite moments of the day was the Symposium Session run by Daniel Valentin and Valerie Brunow. They created a NCAA-style bracket challenge around poetry and crowning a "best poem." It was great to look at something like poetry in that way, since poetry isn't something you can easily say is best or worst, especially across different genres and the different ways to experience it (reading it, having it read to you, or watching a video of the poet read the poem as they intended).

It was a great session that got me thinking differently about poetry as well as how I might have some fun with a tech-focused bracket challenge.

In addition to watching a number of sessions, I presented a few things during the conference and this blog posts will serve as the central repository for all the things I rambled on about.

And a big thanks for Ellen Moskowitz for capturing my finest summer shirt during my Adobe Spark roundtable discussion

Adobe Spark blog posts
Poetry with Adobe Spark
Social Studies with Adobe Spark Video

Ignite the Student Presentation: Ditch the TriFold and Ignite Passion and Creativity
This is the 4th year we've done CapCon! with TED and Ignite Talks and every year is a new challenge and a new success, and it was great to share it with the folks at Basecamp mere days away from the event.

Check out all the Ignite and CapCon! blogs posts from previous years to see how we've evolved the process.

Thank you to everyone I connected with, reconnected with, came to my session, sat at the roundtable, or just said hello to. I had a great day!

And of course, big thanks to Chappaqua Schools for hosting!

4th Grade Ignite Talks

In 2018 we tried the Ignite Talks format with a single 4th grade class. This year we did it with the entire grade.

Before we dive into the awesomeness that is the 4th grade Ignites allow me to define Ignite Talks and how we use them…

Ignite Talks originated in Seattle as a new style of presenting. The format is: “5 minutes, 20 slides, auto-advancing every 15 seconds… enlighten us but make it quick.” 

We have modified that format for 4th grades;

“7 slides, 15 seconds per slide, 1:45 to tell us your story.” For the 4th grade we took the social studies unit The American Revolution and centered the Ignite Talks around that idea and area of study.

Last year the Ignites were a reflective presentation on their Colonial America unit of study. This year their Ignites are all about their study of the American Revolution. Their unit of study around the American Revolution was a 6+ weeks history experience. They researched, read novels, created period-inspired political cartoons and diary entries, and looked at the major factors, from both sides, of the start of the American Revolutionary Way. Their Ignite Talks are a summary of their experience. We gave them 7 slides and 1:45 to tell about their learning experience, in their own words. It is the ultimate reflective assignment, they had to look back at the full experience and think about the different assignments and projects and how they connected, or didn’t, with each. These Ignites are their literal final project for this unit, summing up everything they did, learned, experienced, and how they felt about it all. All in one minute and 45 seconds…

Monday, June 24, 2019

Social Studies with Adobe Spark Video

This post was originally written for the @HeathcoteTech blog and first appeared at

Adobe Spark is a great platform we've been experimenting with this year. Adobe Spark has a few great benefits including being cloud based so students can use any connected device and access their work anywhere, and it gives you 3 options; Spark Post, Spark Page, and Spark Video. We used Spark Post earlier this year to create poetry graphics.

For the 3rd grade Cultural Universal and 5th grade Immigration units we used Spark Video.
For each grade the students had some basic guidelines
  • No more than 6 words per slide
  • No more than 6 seconds of narration per slide
  • Choose music that fits the tone of your story/narrative
  • Choose a theme and color scheme that fits the tone of your story/narrative
The goal of using Adobe Spark Video was to get students to think differently about their presentation. They are adept at Google Slides and very competent at WeVideo. Adobe Spark falls somewhere in between and posed them challenges to figure out; challenges in what they wanted it to do or be like WeVideo while also showing them the possibilities beyond Google Slides.

For both the 3rd and 5th graders they wrote their narratives first, then turned those into a script, which became the narration and the visuals. There was lots of editing, revising, practicing, fine tuning, and ultimately amazing final projects.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Poetry with Adobe Express (formerly Spark Post)

This post was originally written for the @HeathcoteTech blog and first appeared at

Recently we introduced 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to the Adobe Express (formerly Spark) platform of creative apps.

  • Adobe Spark Post is used when creating graphics such as flyers, posters, infographics, and so on.
  • Adobe Spark Page is for creating scrolling multimedia web pages.
  • Adobe Spark Video is a visual storytelling platform that adds simple animations, music, and narration to slides of text and images.

For the Art and Poetry Festival some 3rd and 4th grade classes used Adobe Spark Post to create and publish their poetry. Here are their final products…

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Periodic Table of Apps - Scarsdale Elementary Schools Edition

This post was originally written as part of a presentation for the Scarsdle Board of Education. It first appeared at

During the March 25, 2019 Scarsdale Board of Education meeting the updated Technology Plan was presented by the Jerry Crisci, the Scarsdale Schools Director of Instructional Technology and Innovation/Co-Director, The Center for Innovation.

As part of the presentation computer teachers and librarians from all grade levels showcased a sampling of what students are using, making and creating.

For the elementary technology team, we created a Periodic Tale of Apps. Elementary students in Scarsdale do a wide variety of things with technology; storytelling, creating, coding, designing... just too many things to only list one or two. This Periodic Table of Apps was designed to give the members of the board and the community members in attendance a better sense of all the great things happening at the elementary level.