About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Freshman Online Portfolios: Tasha Candela

Tasha2 Reviewer: Tasha Candela

Position: Business Teacher

District/School: Lake Shore High School, Lake Shore Public Schools, Michigan

Number of Students in District/School: 3,400/1,200

Products: Microsoft Movie Maker, Microsoft PhotoStory 3, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Power Point, Weebly


On the hunt for a job, students are facing stiff competition. While employers are judging applicants on a number of things, a portfolio of work samples, a resume, and awards is essential. My goal is to transform the traditional paper portfolios into electronic portfolios online.


This lesson is one of the most successful lessons in my career since I began teaching in 2006. The students truly understood the magnitude of this project and used every lesson presented to showcase their aptitudes and abilities. This project was used more than just a one-time grade. Students marketed themselves using documents within their electronic portfolios. 

Some students shared that they landed a job with the help of their portfolio; in fact I have seen an increase in student employment due to these portfolios.

Parents have asked their children to help them complete a portfolio, too, and fellow teachers have asked for tutorials on how-to create Weebly websites for their own classrooms. (I have held these sessions during our Professional Learning Community time.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve was adjusted as I discussed short-term and long-term goals with the students. We developed a timeline to keep students organized, on-track, and ready for accomplishment.

The portfolio is just a tool. Students feel motivated, even as freshmen, to make real world connections. They compile work samples that they are proud of.  Heartfelt discussions and examples of these products helped my students realize the importance of their work and its end results.

How We Use It:

I introduced the website creator Weebly to students and explained the requirements and necessary components of the electronic portfolio. Students took multiple pretests to help discover their values, interests, and personality traits to match them with specific careers.  They then researched the career field and submitted a written paper and gave a presentation. 

Students were given the opportunity to produce a Microsoft PhotoStory 3 presentation instead of the traditional formats. We scanned awards, certificates, pictures, and career documents to post on their Weebly websites. At the end of the lesson, we created Educational Development Plans for students to reference as they continue through their next three years of high school, and towards graduation.

What’s Ahead?:

My long-term goal for the project is to have our educational leaders see the validity of portfolio-based assessments instead of bubble sheets. I believe the authenticity of this project will create a buzz not only for employment purposes, but as a data collection for all others to measure learning. I would love to create a tracking system to find out just how many students landed jobs with the help of their portfolios.

"Did you write this?": Susan Marsh's Answer

Susan2 Reviewer:
Susan Marsh

Position: 9th Grade Civics/Humaniies Geography Teacher

District/School: Shakopee Junior High School, #720, Shakopee, MN

Number of Students in District/School: District/7,000; School/1,000 (Grades 8 & 9)

Product:  Turnitin



I wanted to find a way to check for plagiarism and also to get rid of paper copies.  Answering the “Did you write this?” question can add hours to the essay correcting process


I think the only group that didn’t appreciate it were the students who were plagiarizing. Overall, I see more organized papers, fewer technical errors, and desire to get more good comments. Students enjoy the feedback.

Learning Curve:

It is very easy to learn how to use. I used to spend 3-5 hours for each assignment just checking lines through Google. Now, I am more focused on content, and whether or not students understand concepts, and questions asked. 

How We Use It:

My honors students have four major essays to turn in and regular students have two. All major essays in my class are turned in through Turnitin. This checks papers against the Internet, as well as other students using Turnitin—anywhere in the country.

What’s Ahead?:

I understand the middle school is looking at using it. The high school already does. The high school doesn’t have to teach students how to use it because we’ve already done it, and have set student expectations.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Students now type their essays, and think more carefully about using their own words. It organizes all of their papers on line so that paper is not wasted printing at school. Students have become better editors. When the essay is returned, they note where their technical writing skills need improvement.

Math Complexities & History: Noble and Stahnke

Flight_Mathemetics copy
Noble_Stahnke2 Reviewers: Margaret Noble and David Stahnke

Positions: Digital Arts Instructor (Noble) and 12th Grade Mathematics Instructor (Stahnke)

District/School: San Diego School District/High Tech High

Number of Students in District/School: 400

Products: Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Digital Art, Expression and Silverlight, PCs, production and design software, still cameras, video cameras, and portable audio recorders.


Our objectives were to use technology and creativity to highlight the diversity and pervasive nature of mathematics in our world as understood through theory, history, culture, art and practical applications.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Students are frequently asked to crunch numbers without the benefit of presentations that connect mathematics to our world at large. If students were supported in investigating the wonder, history and often controversy connected with the world of math theory then they would find more connections, interest and investment in their regular mathematical studies. This project is designed with student choice and in-depth research in mind.


We feel strongly that this project particularly focuses on creativity and innovation as connected with the core subjects of art and mathematics. From initial brainstorming to collaborations and finally with multi-tiered production techniques, students developed analytical skills, pursued abstract thinking exercises and embraced critique and revision with a professional motivation to produce their best work.

Learning Curve:

We recommend designing this project as an interdisciplinary senior project that spans over several weeks with critiques and revisions. Final products should be exhibited in a class exhibition open to the public.

If students are losing inspiration or appear to not be invested, check to make sure they are feeling confidence in their abilities and that they understand what is being asked of them to produce successfully.

Students’ significant learning results:

  • A broad understanding of the power of media (media literacy).
  • A deeper understanding of the creative process and production techniques as they apply to a wide array of projects.
  • A holistic cultural and historical view of mathematics in the world and society.

How We Use It:

Students work on self-selected topics from a recommended list or pitch a new topic. They first research a math theory, narrative or phenomena. Some examples include:

  • The Mysteries of Pi
  • Is Math a Universal Language?
  • Art, Nature & Fibonacci
  • Entropy
  • The Mathematics of Sports

Once research is completed, students design a digital art project, which can include photography, sound, websites or video. They present their final projects in a public exhibition that teaches their peers and their community about the complexities and history of math.

What’s Ahead?

  • Give students choice on topics and projects but help direct them into productive decisions.
  • Assess technology capabilities to determine what types of digital art projects can be produced, for students dependent entirely on school resources it will be critical to assess how many digital cameras, videos cameras, computers and what types of software can be accessed by large groups of students fairly. 
  • Facilitate a culture of support and goodwill among students for the critique process.
  • It may be helpful to bring in some mentors such as PhD students in math, physics or engineering.

Student-Driven Learning with Tech: Judy Bragg


Judy Bragg1Reviewer: Judy Bragg

Position:  Language Arts Teacher

District:  Ritchie County, Ritchie County Middle School, West Virginia

Number of Students:  400

ProductsSchoolKit TechSteps, Microsoft Office Word, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint, Windows Movie Maker, SMARTBoard, and Webcam.


1.  Help students develop computer literacy through research and citing skills

2.  Maintain an active learning environment

3.  Initiate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills about real world issues

4.  Integrate technology with core curricula for long-term retention of knowledge


Each year our middle school students complete challenging bundles of TechSteps tasks designed to stimulate student-driven learning by integrating technology into core content areas of study. TechSteps is our great “equalizer” among different levels and styles of academic and social development. As students create the wide range of projects, “followers” become leaders when they realize potential for success. One student actually stated:  “ I loved doing this. I looked at myself from the inside out and liked what I saw.”  (Digital Story Project)

Learning Curve:

TechSteps is a user-friendly program for students and teachers.  As one who began using TechSteps with limited technological literacy, I found myself quickly grasping each new level of creative instruction. An Activebook, complete with step-by-step instructions, is provided for each grade-level project as well as a rubric for evaluating completed work.

While supervision of our middle school students is an inherent part of our instruction, we often become “moderators” as students instinctively assume instructional roles with classmates.

How We use It:

TechSteps is used at our school to successfully integrate technology into core content classrooms so that “what” and “how” students learn relates to the world around them. Each grade level completes six different projects relevant to language arts, social studies, math, and science. Each grade’s projects build upon previous levels of difficulty so that our students enter high school with a solid assortment of technological skills. They are adept at using Microsoft Office applications, and they can readily collaborate on multimedia projects in and out of the classroom (8th Grade Graduation Ceremony).

All students complete written, oral, and visual components that are evaluated as a class grade.  TechSteps provides opportunities for our users to become “digitally savvy” while studying the world around them.

What’s Ahead:

In the future we will continue our partnership with TechSteps. Cross-curricular completion of some projects is planned. For example, my language arts classes will collaborate with our social studies classes to complete a digital story celebrating Veterans Day (shown at a community reception). We will continue to incorporate skills learned through TechSteps to other projects unique to teacher content and style, and, by doing so, we will challenge our students to take their learning to an even higher level.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Due to our high participation, Ritchie County was awarded the K-8 Activity Library as an additional resource to be implemented in our curriculum. This resource provides us with over 150 additional classroom ready technology integration activities to use.

Students Cheer 1:1: Dennis Villano

DennisVillanosmall Reviewer:  Dennis Villano

Position:  Media and Technology Specialist

District/School:  Burlington Public Schools - Burlington, MA

Number of Students in District/School:  1100 students at Burlington High School

Product:  iPads (Apple)

When was the last time you brought a cart of devices into a classroom and actually heard kids cheer? When was the last time your students displayed incredible excitement for the chance to use a device for educational purposes? ~ Dennis Villano


We are providing every high school student with an iPad in order to build a learning environment that will best prepare our students for college and the work place. The use of the iPad will allow for the infusion of a digital curriculum and the extension of learning beyond the classroom walls.


Any 1:1 initiative has the potential to be an incredibly successful educational program, however, success comes from the results of many factors. Teacher support may be the most critical factor. Helping teachers feel comfortable, allowing collaboration time, and providing ongoing guidance are important throughout the entire process.

Students are very excited. They realize that a 1:1 environment can be very beneficial and they certainly think the iPad is a great device. I love that they are so engaged when using the iPads. The coolness factor is definitely a plus. The Burlington community has been very supportive. We are lucky to be working in a community that sees the value in the 1:1 initiative. The teachers are excited, too, but they need a lot of support with digital curriculum creation.

Learning Curve: 

The learning curve is one of the major reasons we selected iPads for our 1:1 device. I have trained students and teachers on many technology products and I have never found one as simple to introduce, simple to teach people about, and easy to explore. While we ultimately want the 1:1 environment to include students bringing in their own devices, we felt that having one device to start would help facilitate an easier transition for teachers into a digital curriculum. We were concerned that having several different devices in a classroom could be overwhelming. The iPad’s powerful simplicity creates a positive foundation for teachers to learn and collaborate about digital curriculum.

How We Use It: 

The iPad truly serves as the ideal, all-in-one content delivery and creation device. Students can use iPads for nearly every task needed in class. The iPad enables teachers to develop and distribute digital content to students. The diversity in available content, whether through web resources, apps, or ebooks, provides our students with the instructional materials and collaboration opportunities that we hoped to achieve in the 1:1 learning environment. The available iOS apps and built in cameras also enable students to create their own digital content without the need for peripheral devices.

What’s Ahead: 

We are planning extensive-ongoing teacher support and training opportunities to help facilitate the creation of digital curriculum content. We will have a large team of students helping as a tech crew supporting their peers and teachers as part of a new Digital Industry course. We are building a Cyber Café for students and teachers as a comfortable place to relax, collaborate, and continue classroom discussions. Students will even be developing apps for curriculum and school related information.

Reviewer’s Notes: 

Teaching with iPads provides fast and easy access to the Internet, great apps that can often be tied directly into curriculum, and a truly hands-on approach to learning. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with incorporating a device that helps get kids excited to learn—partially because it’s so cool.

My favorite part about students using iPads in a 1:1 environment is how engaged and excited students are about learning. I have never had students so engaged using a technology product in class. Nothing even comes close.

Interactive Projecting: Ongena & Manning

BPD3 student2 (2)
Katherine Manning3 Reviewers: Charles Ongena /Katherine ManningCharlesOngena3

Positions: Instructional Technology Coordinator/Teacher 

District/School: Beach Park School District #3

Number of Students: 2,300

Products: Epson Brightlink 450Wi Interactive Projector, Epson ELPDC11 Document Camera, HP Mini Netbook


Charles Ongena:

My goal as Instructional Technology Coordinator is to provide digital learning tools that engage visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. I look for products that are user friendly and cost effective for our district. 

Ultimately, we aim to increase test scores through the implementation of interactive digital instruction that engages and motivates learned concepts, or skill sets, as opposed to rote memorization.  

We have pioneered the Epson Brightlink Interactive projector in two Special Ed Classrooms this year. 


Katherine Manning:

My students and I have really enjoyed piloting the Epson interactive projector. It has made learning fun for us. I have to say that this technology has really improved their writing, reading, and math skills. 

Learning Curve

Charles Ongena:  

The Setup

1. Mount the short throw projector above projection surface. 

2. Connect the document camera to projector,

3. Connect netbook to projector,

4. Calibrate. 

The projection surface can be any flat surface whether a current marker board, or just an empty wall. The interactive pen requires two AA batteries.

The two teachers using these products this year are very comfortable with technology and students, regardless of age, are almost always equal if not superior in this field. Both classrooms had an easy transition with Epson’s products. Teachers have access to me for instructional assistance, as well as our 3 district computer specialists for technical help. 

How We Use It

Katherine Manning:

Katherine Manning (2) We were practicing “Ch” diagraphs with reading A-Z.  I logged in and, using our classroom’s Epson BrightLink 455Wi, projected the book we are reading onto my white board. My students used the "magic" interactive pen to highlight the “ch” diagraphs in the story. Using the pen they are also able to manipulate the pages, write notes, type in text, frame words, and cover words. 

Recently, our class has also been enjoying a website that shows a live webcam of eagles.  Every day, instead of journals, we have begun writing eagle observations. We watch the eagles nest on my whiteboard, where I am then able to project an interactive keyboard.  The students can come up to the board and type in their observations. 

What’s Ahead?

Charles Ongena:

My goal for next year is to outfit kindergarten classrooms throughout the district with this same combination of digital devices. I believe this digitally enhanced classroom setup is adaptable enough to withstand the changing tide of technology for quite some time.

Epson’s BrightLink interactive projector connects to any digital device capable of screen sharing and the relatively inexpensive netbook is the replaceable part in this recipe. The netbook replacement will most likely be a tablet PC.

Reviewer’s Notes

Charles Ongena:

Technology is reflecting the changes in society; it is scary for many educators to dramatically change their teaching practices and it is important for technology staff to provide face-to-face support during implementations like these. 

As we implement these in 12 more classrooms, I will be providing a lot of initial face time with the teachers before they have to use them with their classes and am always a phone call away. We have a wide variety of technology comfort levels in the district and I can't stress how important having a training and support system is to effective implementation. Once you get the teachers comfortable with technology, the students easily adapt and will thrive!

The user interface of the Epson interactive projector is streamlined because you no longer need a separate "whiteboard" and the short-throw projector leaves plenty of floor and ceiling space and minimizes shadowing. This solution also undercuts our previous digital classroom setup by over $500 in savings, making it even more attractive.

BPD3 student1 (2)

iTalc: Free Computer Control


Charles Reviewer: Charles Profitt

Position: Systems Administrator

District: Pittsford Central Schools, NY

Students: 6,000

Product: iTalc


The district has used Geneva Logic Vision, which is now Netop Vision to control a few labs in the district. There were several requests to install the software in additional labs, but the license was for a single lab in two different buildings. To meet demand, I suggested using iTalc, which I had learned about through Ubuntu and Edubuntu.


The teachers in libraries and classrooms with the software deployed were impressed with the ease of use. The iTalc software met all their needs for classroom computer control. The fact that the software is
no-cost is an added bonus.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve was very short. Most teachers were able to use iTalc effectively with a short five minute introduction. The only issue comes with the occassional need to add computers to the teacher control station, and this is just because it is an infrequent task.

How We Use It:

The software is used in both wired and wireless multi-computer situations. Teachers have the ability to monitor and control the computers in their classroom or labs.

iTalc allows us to do the following:

1. Demonstrate directly on student computers.

2. Chat directly with a student to assist them with a difficult problem.

3. Take remote control of the student’s computer to provide more guidance with classwork.

4. Ensure that students are focused, which can include remotely locking their screens, or shutting down all computers.

One feature that impressed us about iTalc is the ability to have students connect from home using a VPN and the iTalc client.

What's Ahead:

The iTalc project will be releasing a new version with full support for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and 64bit support. This will be ready just in time for our transition to Windows 7.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.