Digital Check-Up

I recently got the oil changed on my car. I did this because a reminder popped up on my dashboard. So consider this your pop up reminder to do a digital check-up!

Do you get those emails or letters saying that privacy changes have occurred for an account/subscription you have? Do you ignore them? Truthfully I often do. But when it comes to our digital devices and subscriptions we need to be diligent. Are these companies giving out your information in a different way? Are they protecting your data as securely?

What about your social media? Have you recently checked that your preferences have remained the same? I have noticed that when apps update, sometimes my preferences change to more general allowances. I keep my personal preferences fairly tight. Limiting access to my posts and information to friends and approved groups. 

For your child’s video games, what has changed in regards to allowing access to other players? Again, when an update occurred, did it change your parental controls? Have you recently checked your child’s screen time on a daily or weekly basis. Both Apple products and android phones can be monitored. 

So as we enter 2020, add a Digital Check-Up to your to-do list. Here is a quick Digital Check-Up checklist followed by some ideas to accomplish the items: 

  1. Check screen times. 
    1. Apple mobile products have Screen Time listed under settings.
    2. Android users can download the Family Link app. 
  2. Check the Social Media preferences, particularly who can see the posts, for you and your child.
    1. Are you set for just friends and family seeing your posts or your  children’s posts?
  3. Video game settings. Check the parental controls. 
    1. If you can’t find them google the question as to where they can be found. If they don’t have any, maybe re-evaluate the use of this game. 
    2. While you are at it, play the game if you have not done so. This is a great way to see what is attracting your child to the game.
  4. Passwords, have you, and your children, been using the same password on multiple sites and/or for a long time? Time to change  it. It is possible it has been exposed during a data breach somewhere. 
    1. The Mozilla organization, makers of the Firefox browser have a new free tool you can use to check if any of your info/data was exposed in a data breach. It is called Firefox Monitor, it’s free to use and you may be surprised at what it shows you. Mozilla has recently doubled down on privacy and the latest version of Firefox is arguably the most privacy focussed browser of the big four right now. 
    2. If Firefox isn’t your cup of tea and you are a Chrome user, they offer data breach tools also. In August Chrome released their Password Checkup Extension. Once installed it would alert you whenever you login to a site if your username and password were exposed in a data breach and prompt you to update them. 
    3. Google just announced that the forthcoming Chrome 79 will have built in protections and will monitor your saved passwords and notify you should they appear in a breach. Using a browser without these features? Checkout enter your email address and it will tell you if/when/where it was exposed. You can even sign up for notifications.
  5. VPN – do you often use public wifi, hotels, airports, coffee shops? If so and you are not using a vpn, you may be exposing your sensitive data, passwords, credit cards, etc.  
    1. A vpn encrypts all your internet traffic making it very hard to intercept your traffic. There are many providers out there and plans can cost as little as a cup of coffee a month. EdTech Ease’s CTO uses Express VPN and is very happy with the speed and security it provides.

What did your Digital Check-Up reveal? Reach out with your discoveries via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Smooth Start

A few weeks ago, after moving my youngest son to his room at college, I was driving to visit my oldest son. With some quiet time in the car I started reflecting on how the school year has started at my client schools. This led me to the whole idea of smooth starts to school. What does that mean, to have a smooth start? Does it mean there are few scheduling conflicts? Probably important in a high school but this can be a concern in elementary schools when scheduling library time or STEAM labs individually with teachers. Does it mean all your curricular materials arrived on time, no backorders? Even more important did they arrive in the correct classrooms?

After spending the first week in a client school, the administration and I felt that we had had a smooth start. Almost all the curriculum resources were in, only a few back ordered items (Yay!) Most students seemed to be making the transition from summer to school well. The new teachers were over prepared in their lesson plans. The new student information system did make taking attendance easier. So yes, a smooth start.

Smooth starts are important! The tweets and articles say so. But what is the benefit of a smooth start? For me, it sets a tone for the school year. When I was teaching, a smooth start was several weeks long. I taught Kindergarten for 6 years and these young learners, take several weeks of modeling procedural expectations for it to “take.” Does that mean no academics got introduced, of course not! But also introduced was:

  • How to rotate during centers -this allowed me later to take small groups or individual students with the confidence that the remaining students could be working on their assignments effectively.
  • How to silently ask to use the restroom so that learning could continue.
  • How to respond to a “sharing” with a question or comment about the sharing and not about themselves. – Important social learning, to be an active listener to someone.
  • Where are the important things like the office, nurse, playground are in the school. Knowing this allowed my messengers to have confidence and independence in their role.
  • Where are the supplies kept in the classroom. Students should have ownership of knowing they are free to get supplies when needed. So, they also need practice in knowing when they actually need a supply.

These are just a few items that are modeled, practiced, modeled again, practiced again before the class can be a community of learners who know the procedures and expectations for a smooth year, not just a smooth start.

George Couros reminded us in a recent blog about a past blog post: 10 Easy Ways To Create an Amazing #ClassroomCulture This Year. (, ) One key he says is to build positive relationships. I totally agree. If our students trust us to support them as they grow then they will take the advantage of the opportunities we provide to grow. Those relationships start on Day 1 but build each day after.

So what if your year did not get off to the start you want, call a do over! No, you can’t go back in time but you can call a time out. Maybe you just need to evaluate some of your procedures and explain to the class that you want to discuss what is working for this class community and what needs a change. Then carefully think through that change and model it. Maybe it means making that extra effort to be standing at the door each morning to say hello to each student.

A final thought…

Now what? Kayla Delzer (@TopDogTeaching) posted on Twitter: “What are we doing to make sure kids are this excited to come back to school every day – not just the first day?”

So how did your first days go? What are you continuing to do maintain the joy of learning? Share with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Tuesday, 10 September 2019.

What is Learning?

“So, how do you know that a child is learning?” This was recently asked of me at a parent coffee I held. This question emerged as I was discussing the progress monitoring that this school had instituted in their reading program. I was explaining as to how I view the yearly achievement testing as one piece in a student’s educational portfolio. A way to monitor progress from year to year. But my views on achievement testing are not what I want to discuss in this post. Rather I want to think through the idea of learning and how we can help parents understand this complex idea.

If you Google ‘ways to learn,’ you will get a variety of answers. One theory, the VARK model, identifies four primary types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Each learning type responds best to a different method of teaching ( My computer dictionary says learning is: the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught (Apple Dictionary, 2108). Another way to look at learning is The Seven Learning Styles ( Constructivism is a learning theory that defines learning as the way people construct meaning and knowledge from their experiences ( Again my goal in this post is not to write a review study of learning. But a quick reminder of the variety of ways our students may learn does demonstrate that there is no easy answer to, “So, how do you know that a child is learning?”

As educators we monitor learning growth in many ways, from quizzes to writing samples. Teachers listen to children read and use running records. Comparing previous running records to see if self-corrections have increased or look at words per minute read to evaluate fluency development. There are a variety of computer based progress monitoring systems, STAR 360 and iReady to name but two (and yes these both proclaim other uses too but that is another blog post). We diligently record growth in report cards and progress reports. Maybe some of your schools use portfolios to demonstrate growth. All these ways and more coalesce to display student growth. So why did this parent ask, “So, how do you know that a child is learning?”

I think the real question for this parent is: ‘How do I know that my child is learning?’

Just as we educate our students, we need to take an active step in educating our parents. That was the purpose of the coffee I was having, helping the parents understand what this school is doing to monitor learning growth. Further what is being done with the data interms of support, enrichment and identifying students who need a nudge. I was encouraging parents to read with their children and questions to ask to push their thinking. I suggested conversation topics based on the curriculum, to read the weekly newsletters to know what their children were studying in school, to look at the planners as conversation starters, in other words talk to their children meaningfully about school. Listening to conversations over time will give parents some insight as to the learning taking place.

I also reminded the parents that morning that with anything, practice makes learning develop. Check out this related blog post, How to Improve-Practice, Parents need reminders that learning does not just happen because a child grows taller. They need practice. Practice retelling stories, giving directions, reading!

“So, how do you know that a child is learning?” Reach out with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Thursday, 10 October 2019.

Let Them Read

What follows in this post is my personal beliefs about reading. I have done some research about what encourages reading and whether certain reading programs are effective catalysts of students reading. But primarily my thoughts on reading come from my observations and interactions with students and my own children over the last two decades.

What I have discovered is that everyone is a reader. It may be that they like to read novels, newspapers, magazines, instructional booklets. But everyone, students and grownups, will spend a lot of time doing something if they enjoy it. Just like some like to play baseball, do crossword puzzles, cook, or paly video games. If you enjoy something you will be content to do it more and therefore become better at your chosen endeavour. The difference with reading, is that as my husband says, ‘one must read to succeed.’ He in not necessarily meaning that success is becoming CEO of a corporation, rather he means that to successfully function in this world, one must be proficient at reading.

So reading takes on an importance in one’s education that other joyful hobbies do not. As educators we want our students to practice their reading. We know that practice imporves all skills. So, how do we encourage reading? Spoiler alert, this is my belief…Find what they like to read and give them lots of oppportunities to read that. Maybe it is an author, or a genre, or a magazine about their hobby.

When my sons were young, I truly thought one of them was “not a reader.” He was not the kid who picked up a book in the middle of the day to read. But one night, I went up to check on my boys and there he was reading in bed. I asked what he was reading and he told me. He also told me he read every night after coming to bed. Even after, we had read to him. From then on, I purchased and found at the library his genre of books (which was/is very different from his older brother and myself). He is also a sports column reader which he now does on his phone.

At a client school this year, I had a conversation with a parent about her concern regarding her daughter’s reading skills. The next day I had a conversation with the student and discovered that she really wanted to read Harry Potter. Talked with her mom again and we both decided that she was not ready academically or developmentally for Harry Potter (more about this: I researched some books that were similar to Harry Potter but better suited for this student now. I showed her my findings and she chose a series to try. I bought the first few books, read them myself over a weekend. She loved the series. More than that, she talked about the series with her classmates, who then wanted to borrow these books. The icing on the cake was when their teacher found them doing an impromptu book talk about the series on the floor of the library. That made my heart sing. Her mom has since told me that she calls herself “a reader.” Her teacher has observed her growth in classroom reader and confidence in reading. And if we want to add data, her reading scores have improved dramatically. So have the other reluctant readers that she book-talked into reading this series (and two more series – they have been coming to school to exchange books with me this summer).

So to add one more anecdote: walked out of a store the other day and a young man following his mom(looked to be about 6th grade) nearly walked into me. Why? He was engrossed in a book. Isn’t that what we want for all our students? To be so “into a story” that they can’t put it down.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie

How will you get your students excited about reading this school year? How will you make books available to your students? Reach out with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Sunday, 28 July 2019.

Year End Reflections

 This post is not so much about suggesting or telling about an educational approach. Rather this is about my wanting to remember to include reflection more into my coaching and teaching. As we careen towards the end of the school year, so many activities seem to pop up that I often don’t take the time for reflection.

I have written about percolating time,, that time to let ideas grow or give students a few extra seconds to form their ideas. Reflection is more than that. For me, reflection is the thinking about an event, lesson, or discussion and determining what I would keep or change for the next time.

This idea of taking time to reflect is particularly important this year for me. For the first time in a long, long while I spent this school year inserting myself into a new school community. I could not have asked for a more welcoming community. From the students to the faculty to the parents, everyone was so open to including me in their school community. Does that mean there were no hiccups, of course not. But as I reflect on the year, those bumps in the road were fabulous learning opportunities.

As an edtech consultant and in my role as an accreditation team member, I have stepped into schools for short visits, imparting my “wisdom” and then leaving. In these circumstances, I do not have to be around for the fallout from suggesting new ideas/approaches or the hard work of implementing change. But this year, I added a client school in which I spent several days each week. This meant that I was personally in the school to see how my recommendations and proposals on curriculum; suggestions on teaching; and professional development book studies developed.

In working at my previous school for well over a decade, I had the opportunity to get to know the faculty well. I knew which teachers would take a recommendation and run with it. Which teachers would benefit from modeling and co-teaching. Which teachers needed time to digest ideas then have a discussion. I had also built up my relationships so that my recommendations were met with confidence by the faculty that I had done my research. In this new client school, my biggest reflection is that I did not develop relationships first. Yes, I did not come in day 1 and say ‘blah, blah, blah, this needs to go.’ But I did suggest to soon that as a faculty we evaluate certain programs and practices too soon. Just having a new person in the school was unsettling enough.

I thank the other administrators that I was working with for our weekly meetings to help me learn the community. Those meetings helped remind me to take a step back. While I took copious notes, I started asking more questions and doing more observations. This allowed the second half of the school year to go smoother. This also gave the faculty time to see that I was open to discussions and wanted their input (even if it was different from my thoughts).

So what are my reflections at the end of this school year.

  • Be open. Some practices that I thought were not worthwhile are just right for this school.
  • Seeing a school year from start to finish, gave me the big picture. It was about March when some ideas that I had been sketching out came together and allowed me to research programs to enrich the educational opportunities that would work with the constraints and possibilities within this school.
  • Listen more. As the year went on I realized their were stakeholders I had not talked with…parents. So I set up morning coffee sessions with each grade level of parents. I stopped some in the lobby during arrival and dismissal. Before I knew it, more parents were stopping me. Some to give me the “lowdown” on the school, others to hear what I thought.
  • Sometimes an “outside” viewpoint is needed. Even if this is hard for the “insiders” to hear.

Are you taking a few minutes to reflect on this school year? Do you have your students reflect on the school year? Share your ideas with EdTech EASE on Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Hatching Chicks

 Two of the schools that EdTech EASE works with include hatching chicks as part of their elementary science curriculum. This made me curious as to why this process was included in their curriculums. For both schools, this is part of a larger science curriculum. As part of their science curriculum, the first and second graders in these schools study life cycles in nature. Students learn about life cycles of plants and bean seeds to see firsthand how roots, stems, and leaves develop.They examined the life cycles of butterflies, fish, and frogs Their studies culminated with learning about the life cycle of the chicken while incubating a brood of chicks! But the science is just the start.

These students also had the opportunity to practice their social emotional, I like to call them… life skills. They had the opportunity to nurture another living being. That is something we want our children to learn how to do.

These fortunate students took part in a hands-on lesson on how to nurture as well as protect.

The students watched the embryos develop within the egg. Explanations were given in how to hold the egg as the students performed a candling experiment (shining a light at the inside of the developing egg to see if the embryo is developing). During the incubation time, the students took their role of protectors very seriously. One teacher had brought in a large enclosure to safeguard the eggs. The young students were instructed as to the fragile nature of the eggs as the chicks develop. So, they made signs explaining the need to be careful around the enclosure and not to walk past the tape that marked off a safe distance from the enclosure. This was done for the benefit of the other students in the schools who came to observe the process through visitations.

Finally, the students experienced the excitement of having healthy chicks hatch! One of the schools shared that event with the whole school through the live streaming of the hatching to a TV stationed outside the first-grade classroom. This area of the school became very popular for the two days of hatching. Students and teachers found reasons to walk by the video feed.

After the hatching, the students are integrating their science skills with observations as well as the social emotional skills with monitoring and protecting the development of the chicks as they begin to grow. As each grade visited the chicks, the students are their guides in holding the chicks gently. To culminate this hands-on experience in one school, each first-grader will get to take the chicks home to care for them overnight. They also will eventually need to handle separation as the chicks are given up for adoption to local farms.

This idea of integrating social emotional learning reminds me of an article I read just this afternoon from the opinion column in Education Week ( find at @EdWeekComm on Twitter) The article was titled, Your Objections to Whole-Child Education Aren’t Wrong. They’re Just Outdated. It referred to the arguments for more academic early learning versus more a social-emotional whole child focus. The idea exposed was that today social-emotional skills can be (and should be in my opinion) a vital integrated part of curriculums. I don’t think this needs to stop at early childhood. Strong academic opportunities can be paired with practical social emotional learning experiences.

How are you teaching social emotional skill within the academics of your classroom? Share your ideas with EdTech EASE on Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Thursday, 25 April 2019.

Learning Spaces

Learning should not be regulated to just the classroom. I am not the only one who feels this way, just check Instagram and Facebook posts.Learning spills out into the hallways and beyond in many schools. In the schools I visit, I often observe that the hallways, multipurpose room, and even the kitchen are often transformed into learning spaces.

Using a hallway floor as a backdrop, the first and second graders employed a Design Thinking Cycle to arrange miscellaneous items into a page for an I Spy bookAnother time, one may have seen these same students jumping on a student sized number line as they explored numbers and addition. Or determining directions on a neighborhood map.

Literature thinking and engineering challenges may be discovered in multipurpose rooms. Other times students are doing robotic coding in hallways. Applying fractions to cooking has been a focus for a number of classes in the kitchen. Teachers take advantage of these addtional learning spaces to conduct guided reading sessions, organize collaborative activites, and encourage paired reading through book nooks in the hallway.

Since there is no set art classroom, one school transforms their multipurpose room into an art studio. Another created a garden for contemplation and earth science lessons. Of course, a trend in education today is makerspaces. While these are not spaces that teachers just use because they are available like the hallway, makerspaces are designed to with express purpose to enlarge the learning space opportunities for students.

Another trend is purposefully having open spaces with a variety of furnishing. Students who need a few moments of solitude to get an assignment done may be found sitting on an oversized chair. Or if a group needs the floorspace to work on their Rube Goldberg design, these open spaces are ideal.

What about virtual field trips? Take the learning out of the building without the cost of a bus or plane. Many museums offer just such opportunities, will take you to the virtual site for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Don’t discount the learning that the playground offers. Social-Emotional lessons need a space to be practiced. The playground football game is perfect for trying out the conflict resolution skills discussed in classes. With guidance from an adult monitoring, students often work through social concerns as they decide who gets the skip rope first.

By using the variety of learning spaces your school can create or just take advantage of, you can remind students that learning is not a segregated activity that is done in just one learning space. Take a look around your school and see what hidden learning spaces are available for you and your students.

What spaces are you using to extend your classroom? Share your ideas with EdTech EASE on Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Friday, 08 March 2019.

Science Fair in a Digital World?

During the last few weeks I have been an observer in the process of a school science fair. When I first heard about this endeavor, I started thinking about, is there a place in this digital world for an old school science fair? Let’s start with what I observed of this process.

Students did preliminary research regarding their science concept, followed by performing the experiment. Then, they reported the experience with poster board displays.The science fair included hypotheses involving animal behavior, the chemistry of fruit preservation, and electrical voltages. But the science fair was not only about science exploration. Over the course of several weeks, the students had to manage their time, in some cases actually redesigning their experiments, make sure they were only testing one variable, and then they created a visual display of their work. Teachers gave support and even class time to guide the students, and the Fifth grade in this school monitored the process with check-ins andposters of encouragement. The result was a room filled with excited students demonstrating all they had learned to their classmates, younger schoolmates, teachers and their parents!

So let’s look at the science fair process through the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills.

Critical Thinking – the students had to solve a problem of their own design.

Creativity – the students had to design an experiment from a problem they were interested in.

Collaboration – (this one is tricky) while no teams were formed for this science fair that does not mean it could not be a component. I did observe students discussing their projects and getting great feedback from each other.

Communication – the science fair was an opportunity for students to express their understanding in a visual format as well as orally during the actual science fair.

So, to answer my own question, yes, a science fair does belong in a digital world. The hands-on experience and the 3 C’s attest to that. Now would I “tech up” the experience? Maybe in an intentional way not just to add technology. Some students are better with oral communication than visual displays. Maybe a differentiated choice could be that they film their experiment and then narrate it with a video program. Just one thought.

Does your school do science fairs? Do you incorporate a digital component? What about allowing for collaboration? Share with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Friday, 25 January 2019.

Academically or Developmentally Ready?

Had a conversation with a parent last week. She was telling me how she and her husband had just watched Apollo 13 with their 5th grade daughter over the weekend. After reassuring their daughter that the astronauts were going to be fine, they all got really engrossed with the film. The 5th grader asked some great questions that they stopped the movie to look up (i.e. Google). They enjoyed the experience so much that she was looking for other movies like that to watch together. Our conversation continued with us discussing the movies, plays and books that some parents expose their kids to at young ages.

I have noticed that many parents do not take the time to determine if a movie, book or TV program is appropriate for their child. To me it is a question of developmentally ready. Is a child developmentally ready for certain themes, scenes or ideas? Just becasue a movie is based on a comic book, does not mean that it is meant for children. Many comics are intended for adults and the movies made from them contain mature ideas.As a Principal, I was often asked by parents what could their voracious reader read next? Harry Potter? The Lightening Thief? My answer was always grounded in the particular child’s developmental stage.

Multiple factors need to be taken into account when determining if your child is developmentally ready for an experience. A good starting point is the chld’s age. Other considerations are birth order, cultural considerations, child’s temperment, the intended audience, and child’s background knowledge. It is important for each family to make viewing/reading decisions based on these factors as they relate to their family.

Let’s take a moment to look at one of these factors. Birth Order. In my opinion, parents are more likely to take into consideration whether their first born child is ready for the book, movie, etc. (maybe it is a case of… is the parent ready to acknowledge their oldest child is ready for certain experiences). But younger siblings can be made aware of topics and ideas through dinner conversations involving the older sibling. These younger siblings then have the background knowledge to potentially be developmentally ready for a movie or TV program than their classmates. As my sons were growing up, we would often discuss that what we consider appropriate for our family may not be for a friend’s family. And the other way, my husband and I would say that ‘does not work for our family,’ when something was brought to us for approval.

A quick note, the intended audience of the book/movie should be considered. Having observed elementary students at theater productions that are intended for adult audiences, I wonder if a parent is prepared for the questions that may arise. In discussions, I have been told ‘it will just go over their heads.’ If topics will not be understood by a child, then what is the point of exposing them at this point? For some curious children, this non-understood concept may lead to exploration to get the meaning.

So how do you know what the intended audience is? Or what the story involves? There are some great resources out their. Amazon has editorial reviews by librarians and authors. Reading what other customers have said also can inform a parent as to how their child may respond (i.e. temperment). CommonSense Media ( has reviews that include age suggestions, how many positive messages or illicit behavior, and a section on what parents need to know.

Also refer parents, and yourself, to the school Librarian, often an underutilized faculty member. Don’t forget that you can and should be a great resource for your classroom or school parents.

Remind parents that there is plenty of time for their child to be exposed to ideas and events. It is important to recognize what their child is ready to understand without overwhelming them or frightening them.

How do you support parents in their quest to determine whether their child is academically or developmentally ready for some media? Reach out with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on  Friday, 11 January 2019.

How to improve…Practice!

Want to get better at something? Then practice it! Been feeling a bit frustrated that some educators and parents seem to think that students will improve in reading just because we are assessing their reading skills. No. Some think that students will improve their individual reading skills because they are reading short passages in an anthology once or twice a week. No. Just like all skills, reading must be consistently practiced.

That is not to say that there are not other factors that contribute to reading development. Having plenty of books available for our readers is one. Modeling good fluency and reading comprehension when reading aloud is another. Making personal connections to the story. And there are abundant articles for parents and entire books written to support reading instruction in the classroom.

The bottom line…all the articles, books, and advice have one thing in common. One must read to get better at reading. Set aside reading times in class and at home.

A basketball player is not going to have a consistent 3-point shot without hours of practice. A dancer will not learn a new routine or a new dance move without practicing. A pianist must practice to grow into move difficult arrangements. Gamers practice their digital prowess.

So let’s talk with our reluctant readers about topics they like and show them book after book till they find one they enjoy. Let’s do book talks to introduce new genres and titles to all our readers. Let’s DEAR. Let’s integrate science and social studies into our Language Arts classes through novels. Let’s use picture books to introduce a STEAM challenge. Let’s fill our classroom and school libraries with books!

Mostly, let’s have the students read!!

How are you encouraging reading in your classroom or school? Reach out with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on Thursday, 27 December 2018.