Read and Write Dictionary and Picture Dictionary

Read and Write has so many awesome features!  One that I haven’t shared here yet is the Dictionary and Picture Dictionary.  The brief video above gives a great description of what each tool does and how you might consider using them with kids.


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Apps in Google Classroom

Here’s another excellent, short video from Google on app integration into Google Classroom.  The discuss how tools and apps like Khan Academy, Ed Puzzle, and Workbench nicely integrate into Classroom.  If you have questions, drop me a line.  I would also encourage you to add your favorite apps you integrate to both their YouTube channel and to this blog.



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Friendly Disruption Episode 12 — OCR and Noreen Bush

Friendly Disruption Podcast Logo

There is a new episode of Friendly Disruption now available for those of you who enjoy podcasts.  This month we talk in depth about optical text recognition (OCR) software — the tools teachers can use to make paper text into digital text.  We also have a great conversation about universal design for learning (UDL) and personalized learning with Noreen Bush.

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Winter IPI Data

Winter IPI Data ChartIPI (Instructional Practices Inventory) is part of the CCSD Strategic Plan under Focus 3.  The goal is that 30% of our IPI observations will reflect higher order, deeper thinking.  In the IPI model, a code 6 or 5 indicates higher order thinking.  One of the big concepts of IPI is that even though the observations are very short (5 minutes or less) the sheer number of observations will reveal a clear trend of what kids are experiencing.  Just a couple of important reminders regarding IPI:

  1. IPI is NOT evaluative of individual teachers in any way.  All the data is aggregated. No one looks at individual classrooms or teachers.  We don’t care which classrooms or teachers were revealed with specific codes.  It’s all about looking at the overall trend of the big picture.
  2. IPI is not a hierarchy.  With the exceptions of codes 1 and code 2 — which we should do our best eliminate: disengaged students and teachers —  the rest of the codes are all valuable and good practice.  We don’t want to see an elimination of codes 3 or 4 — the lower order thinking codes.  Kids need these types of experiences to fully and deeply learn.  The big question is what proportion of codes 3, 4, 5, and 6 do we think is optimal…?

Here are some of the highlights when I look our data:

  • During the winter district IPI window, we were able to get in just under a thousand (989) observations.  This data represents all buildings except Edge and Delta.
  • We had 25.5% of our total observations reflected students engaged in higher order, deeper thinking.  In the fall window, we had 22.7%.  So, there was an increase of 3.5% in students engaged in higher order, deeper thinking.
  • Of the 989 observations, 325 of them captured students using digital tools.  This about 34% of all observations.
  • In observations with students using digital tools, 33.6 of these observations reflected students engaged in higher order, deeper thinking.  In the observations without technology or digital tools, students were engaged in higher order, deeper thinking in 20.4% of those observations.  This is a difference of 13.2%
  • Code 4 represents direct teacher instruction and code 3 represents independent (lower order) practice.  Students not engaged with technology/digital tools were coded at 59.5%  Students that were observed using digital tools were at code 3 51.7% of the time.

I think there’s a good bit celebrate.   The fact that we have a pretty comprehensive and useful number of overall observations is great.  Our total percentage of students observed engaging in higher order, deeper thinking has increased from the fall observation cycle.  In addition, we are over our stated goal of 30% of students engaged in higher order, deeper thinking when students are engaged with digital tools (33.6%).  That’s really powerful!

I think there are some “grows” in this data as well.  I’d love to see the percentage of kids observed using digital tools go up from 34%.  Looking at the data, it’s pretty clear that when our kids use these tools, they are significantly more likely (13.2%) to be engaged in higher order, deeper thinking.

I looking forward to our final observation cycle later this spring.  I hope that all teachers get a chance to engage with this powerful data for your building.  While it’s really interesting for me to analyze it, it’s really only useful or meaningful as a conversation starter amongst teachers and building leaders about how to shift the experience of our students.

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Online Registration Update

Infinite Campus OLR starting pageI realized that most people probably don’t know what’s happening with online registration.  So, here’s a quick update.  If you all recall, when I came to your building last fall I announced that we would be going to online registration this year.  This plan is moving ahead as expected.  We’ve been using the new online form for all new to the district students this calendar year.  While there are always some bugs and wrinkles to iron out, by an large it has worked really well.  The new process has been relatively easy for families to understand and it’s saved Becky O’Connell a lot of time by automating most of the data entry into Campus — so far a real win-win situation.

This puts us on target to use the online tool for all returning district students this summer.  Like any new process, I’m sure we’ll have some things we need to fix, but my hope is that this new tool will delight our families.  The application for existing families just requires them to review the information we currently have in Campus and update it with any changes.  This means no more completing the dreaded “yellow form” from scratch for each child.  It should be a time-saver.

While there are still a number of details to work through, I can tell everyone that we will still have a registration event this August, too.  It will likely look a bit different as all families will need to use the new tool.   So, I’m sure we’ll have computer kiosks set up for families for that purpose.   We will likely need to work with buildings as well to have some open computer times for families without access to the internet to use our equipment and connection to complete this process.  Again, more details will be forthcoming on this.  But, everything is on the right track.  Stay tuned!

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When You Teach to “the Average Student”, You Teach to No One…

This was another take away from ATIA.  This is an older video, but if you have not seen it, please budget the 18 minutes to watch it.  Rose makes a compelling case for personalized learning.  I’m hearted by the vision and goals in the CCSD Strategic Plan.  We are going down the right track!  But, Rose also challenged me with the concept that our instructional designs and environments are disabled and not our learners. 

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New Paper to Digital Tool

Google's built in OCR

As I posted earlier, I had the privilege of attending the ATIA conference last week.  I learned a ton!  One of the most high-impact takeaways is that Google has a really good and simple to use OCR product.  OCR stands for “optical character recognition”.  This is the software that can convert pictures of text into true digital text. A few weeks ago, I posted about a new tool we were rolling out in the district called Prizmo that does the same thing.  While Prizmo is good, I think this solution is even better!   With this built-in Google software, a teacher or (even better) a student could take a picture of text on paper and convert it to a digital format that can be used with Read&Write for Google.  This is really empowering, cool, and exciting!  Here’s how it works.

Take a picture of the page with a phone, iPad, or any other camera that will save the image in a digital format.  It doesn’t matter what the file type is either — it can be a “.jpg” or a “.gif” or a “.pdf”.  They’re all good.  Save the picture file to Drive.  While in Drive, right-click or control-click on the file to pull up a submenu — see the screenshot above.  Select, “Open with” and mouse-over the arrow to open the cascade menu — again shown on the screenshot.  Select, “Google Docs”.  That’s it!  Google will create a new Doc.  At the top of the Doc, will be the original picture.  And, below will be all of the text it could recognize from the picture in full digital format — ready to be read, edited, and used by students with Read&Write.  It is so simple, it takes much more time to explain the steps than to actually do them!

Besides the pure simplicity of this tool, it also seems to be really forgiving of text orientation, shadows, or other visual obstructions.  If you look closely at my screenshot, you can see my original picture has the text sideways, there some really visible shadows, and a lot of the text is in color-shaded boxes.  These are all things that have given other OCR software titles I’ve tried-out fits.  The Google tool converted this text with ease.  Here’s a link to the output of the conversion.  Notice, that it re-oriented the photo and Google even adjusted some of the font sizes to align with what was shown on the original paper.

I’ve been looking for good OCR software for better part of the last year.  I found out about this feature in a Google session at ATIA, but this feature was not part of the outlined presentation.  The presenter was doing some Q and A near the end of the meeting and mentioned this feature was there in an off-handed manner.  So, I’m guessing this has been in place for quite some time.  Grant Wood sent a number of people to this conference, too.  They attended this session as well and none of them knew this was their either.  So, I don’t feel quite so bad.

I encourage all staff members to give this a try with students.  And, better yet, encourage kids to use their phones to take advantage of this really great functionality.  Using this feature in conjunction with Read&Write for Google is a great way to give students “voice and choice” in their learning.  It will also make it possible for them to use their strengths to be more successful.  As always, let me know if you have questions or if you’ve had good luck with this tool.

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Spies in Florida!


Last week, the 31st through the 3rd, I was able to attend the ATIA — the national assistive technology conference in Orlando with other members of our AEM team here at CCSD.  The Iowa DoE paid for the trip as part of the AT grant that we were awarded a couple of years ago.  This was a great experience with lots of high-impact learning and many provocative and impassioned conversations.  One of my favorite moments had little to do with AT/AEM, however.  As Cheryl Kiburz and I were walking through the vendor exhibit hall, I had to do a triple take to be sure I was seeing that the US intelligence community had a booth.  I’ve been to a lot of trade shows over the years, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen the CIA in a vendor hall.  I thought it would be cool to get a picture at that booth.  I asked Cheryl to take it for me.  As I moved up to get in the picture, I let the team at the booth know what we were doing.  They let me know it was fine to take the picture, but they would have to get out of the shot — they are spies after all.  So, that’s why it appears that no one was at the booth.  After visiting with them, we found out that a couple of the agents at the booth were deaf or blind.  The booth was there to let the disability community know that the CIA does recruit and employ people with disabilities.  As Buddy Berry would say, this was a surprise and a delight.

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New Episode of Friendly Disruption

If you enjoy podcasts, there’s a new episode of Friendly Disruption now available.  This month’s guest is UDL guru and instructional designer, Kirk Benhke.  We also share a couple of cool Chrome extensions, NoCoffee and Wave.  NoCoffee is used to simulate websites for people with visual disabilities.  Wave is a great tool that can be used to easily and quickly audit any website for accessibility.

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Using Google Classroom to Differentiate/Personalize Instruction

This is a really brief video from the Google EDU in 90 team on how to differentiate and personalize learning using Google Classroom.  There are powerful and simple to use ideas in this two and a half minute video.  I strongly recommend all staff subscribe to the Google EDU in 90 YouTube channel for more really useful tutorials like this one.

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