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No Shelf Tech Here!

Julio Velasquez Director of Technology

Aaron Allen 5th Grade Math, Social Studies and Reading Teacher

Hempfield Area School District (HASD)

Products: Mimio Interactive Solutions

Tech2We looked for something that wasn’t going to be difficult to install and maintain. After the presentations, we surveyed teachers for their input, and Mimio was their top selection.

District tech did the initial install, but we make updates available on our server, and teachers do those themselves. HASD quickly went from very few technology users to 40%, and then to 80% daily blending of Mimio technology with curriculum delivery. “You never want to purchase shelf technology; Mimio gets a daily workout here; it never sits.

We facilitate the training to make sure the technology is always available, and Mimio has been very supportive with everything from individual teacher help to any technical side trouble shooting issues,” says Velasquez. A recent technology training survey, found that teachers wanted more days to get together to share what they were doing with Mimio in their classrooms, and thought it was one of the most valuable inservice days they’ve ever had.

What you get for the dollar makes sense, especially when comparing Mimio solutions with others out there.

Teachers at HASD create and save lessons using Mimio software and the stylus for building text, highlighting, drawing, group work, moving objects, sequencing, as well as capturing supplemental resources from the Internet. Teachers engage students and instantly assess achievement.

Aaron Allen, a 5th grade math, social studies and reading teacher uses Mimio solutions daily for writing, spelling, and language arts.

TeachWith MimioTeach and a stylus I use math manipulatives, and MimioView takes transparencies out of the equation. Kids manipulate objects for concrete references. In its simplest form it’s a quick whiteboard, but it can quickly become something where kids can click, point, manipulate, move, and see their actions. Learning has become a Web 2.0, game-filled, engaging environment in the classrooms of HASD. It’s as easy as using PowerPoint or Word, and If you want to get more technical, it’s not that difficult to create new worlds of learning. Our reading program is online, so this works beautifully for teaching in ways we couldn’t do before—when it was just on paper. It’s a lot easer—and a time saver with Mimio. The right tools are there when and where you need them.

Evernote Education: Russ Goerend

RussReviewer: Russ Goerend

Position: 6th grade Language Arts

District/School: Waukee / Waukee Middle School, Iowa

Number of Students in District/School: 7,000 / 850

Products: Evernote, Doxie Scanner, smartphone camera

Reviewer's Notes:

I use Evernote because it works so well to create and capture different forms of media (audio, video, images, and text). The basis for the system is to capture student learning, which could be done with different tools.


Documenting student learning in (more) authentic ways. Evernote allows me to capture and organize anything I can digitize. Pictures of student work, video of students learning, audio of student conferences, scans of student work, clips of student blog posts. 


Administrators have appreciated my work because it is helping to document student learning. Students think it's "cool" that I have digital copies of so much of their learning. Parents have not been as excited as I'd hoped.

Learning Curve: 

Evernote itself, and importing documents is easy to learn. The actual setup of notebooks and tags that I use has taken a few years to get where it is. I would recommend playing with notebooks and tags to see what works best for you. Evernote is software I used before I was a teacher and I still use a ton outside of school. I use it to organize our garage and our kitchen, for example.

What’s Ahead?: 

I worked with 6th graders who are all under 13. Unfortunately, this means they can't have their own Evernote accounts. If they could -- or if we can find a way to have parents create the accounts for them or something else -- the next step would be to get them doing the collecting, analyzing, and organizing of their own artifacts. That would be the key for me. Right now, we're working on having students take over the evaluation aspect of the artifact collection. As of now, I'm the one deciding what gets digitized or not. I want the students to be the ones doing that.


Classroom Innovation and Creativity: Sarah Butler

SarahReviewer: Sarah Butler

Position Held:  First Grade Teacher

Sarah Butler's Teacher Website 

District/School: Hempfield Area School District, West Point Elementary School, Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Number of Students in District/School: Hempfield Area School District serves 6,100 students in grades K-12 in 11 schools, which include 6 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 1 high school and 1 alternative education school

Products: Mimio Classroom Family of Products, including Mimio Teach, Mimio View, Mimio Capture, Mimio Pad, and Mimio Vote


Last year, Hempfield Area School District invested in the Mimio Classroom Family of Products with the Mimioteachintention of offering teachers innovative ways to expand current curriculum and keep captivating our students in a digital world. The goal was to bring technology into every elementary classroom with interactive ways to view, assess, and complete daily lessons traditionally done via pencil/paper application. Hempfield Area was driven to pursue this new technology with the implementation of new Language Arts and Mathematics curricula. Both programs offered a wide range of interactive resources that teachers could utilize more seamlessly with the latest in educational technology tools, like Mimio.


Across the district, the response to this technology has been more positive than anyone could have imagined or hoped for. With anything new and different, the adjustment has been challenging, but rewarding.  As a classroom teacher, I have made it my personal mission to embrace this new technology in my classroom for the benefit of my students. Despite the challenges of learning all new technology (as well as simultaneously implementing new curriculum!), I have found a new passion for what I do- molding young minds with amazing technology to assist! The students have been the true indicators of success.  Mimio has completely changed the “magic” of learning for my students.  Any Mimio lesson I present, any Mimio Vote assessment I complete, and anything I present through my Mimio View instantly draws their attention. I have seen increased classroom participation and on-task time consistently.  I have also seen exponential growth when comparing student understanding based on “old” teaching practices (i.e. lecture, pencil/paper drill and practice), compared to interactive, hands-on, often student-led Mimio lessons.  Perhaps, most helpful to me, Mimio acts as a teacher assistant, of sorts, to allow me more freedom to oversee my students’ progress.

Learning Curve: 

MimiovoteThe possibilities are endless with Mimio technology, and truly can seem overwhelming.  District implementation has centered on hours of Staff Development, and even more hours spent out of school, on my own time, honing my skills.  From a hardware aspect, Mimio is very simple to operate.  Inherent in the design is the ability for all the Mimio equipment to work with minimal techno-savvy abilities.  To put it as simply as the equipment is to operate, essentially you plug things in and it just works!!  A major highlight is the technology is as simple or sophisticated as you want it to be when it comes to creating.  Lessons can be designed for simplicity, or created utilizing the extensive bells and whistles the technology does offer (but, again, does not require). Mimio, and its parent company Dymo, offer their own support systems and online resources.  These supports are truly phenomenal.  For those that aren’t ready to create, there is also a Mimio Connect website that offers a forum for teacher sharing of lessons. This component has allowed for me to use my prep and planning time most efficiently.  Mimio Connect offers a forum to find pre-made, adaptable templates, games, lessons, and even allows for peer feedback on lessons I create and share. Between the resources offered by Mimio, and the in-district teamwork atmosphere, it has been a challenging, yet very rewarding journey that continues to lead Hempfield Area into a realm of limitless educational excellence.

How We Use It: 

Hempfield Area School District has embraced the role of technology in the classroom and taken the Mimioviewapproach to utilize our Mimio resources to enhance what we already do every day- strive to offer all our students the best educational experiences possible. Mimio is a classroom tool we use to supplement our current curriculum.  Mimio lessons are designed to target the hands-on approach already engrained in our daily learning goals. Using the Mimio Classroom Family of Products, every elementary classroom is equipped with a Mimio Teach, which makes any whiteboard interactive when used in conjunction with a projector, computer, and Mimio software.  Every elementary classroom also utilizes the Mimio View, which is a document camera.  The Mimio Pad allows the teacher to move freely around the room and operate the whiteboard from remote locations without wires.  The Mimio Capture is an ink recording system that works with standard dry erase markers.  It allows for notes to be saved, in many formats, for later editing, printing or other use.  The Mimio Vote (my personal favorite.) allows for instant assessment/feedback.  You can also gather scores and download results into spreadsheets by assigning the handheld devices individually for testing.  The game-like handset maximizes participation, and are you ready for this, put excitement into assessment for children.

What’s Ahead:  

MimiopadI educate children that are more technologically savvy at age 6, than I will ever be in my lifetime. But, I am committed to being a life-long learner and doing my best to make my classroom as relevant and educationally rich as possible. My teaching now embraces, and is part of, the visually stimulating world my students are growing up in. I have the ability to offer my students hands on, motivating lessons that engage their brains in ways most interesting to them. Often, the lessons I create offer components for all learning styles and modalities. It’s definitely provided an avenue to balance the best of technology with the best of traditional education strategies.  Anyone that has spent time in a classroom can tell you, it’s not an easy job.  But, when you love what you do, it makes it easy to find the highlights and triumphs as the glowing parts that outweigh the challenges. There is no greater reward than seeing that proverbial “light bulb” come on for a student.  I see success daily, exponentially, in fact, when including Mimio technology as part of my standard teaching repertoire.  With all of these “light bulbs”, the future is truly bright for my first graders.

Classrooms Collaborate with Projects by Jen

WagnerReviewer:  Jennifer Wagner

Position:  Online Project Coordinator

Online Site:  ProjectsByJen.com

Number of Students in School: 825

Products:  Voice Thread, Animoto, Smilebox, Google Docs & Forms, Dreamweaver, Microsoft Office, and the ProjectsByJen site - http://www.projectsbyjen.com/.


The primary ProjectsByJen goal is to seamlessly and effortlessly weave various opportunities of tech into Jw1 the PreK – 6th grade classroom, while at the same time setting up collaboration activities for interaction.


My first project in 1999 had 125 responding classrooms, most current project over 1300.
Because standards are shared with each project, and the projects can be molded to fit within each teacher’s schedule and curriculum, the response has been positive. I receive emails from teachers, admins, and parents thanking me for offering these projects online so their students can participate. Each classroom is also earns a participation certificate to showcase their involvement.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve is different within each classroom; however, detailed instructions are provided with each project as well as activities and extension ideas. Tutorials are provided as well as several online community forum areas. If a teacher has any difficulty, there are many ways to get support. If any teacher is creating their own worksheets, etc, they usually share out their ideas there. 

How We Use It:

Reviewer's Note: All of my projects can be found here:  http://projectsbyjen.com/archives.htm

Sample Projects:

Most teachers in the Prek – 6th grade level will have some sort of harvest lesson during the last week of October, which will probably involve a pumpkin. The Pumpkin Seed project takes what will already be done and weaves in a math lesson, pumpkin costume show, and many other activities, which can easily be used during this harvest theme time. If a teacher wishes, there are also opportunities for the classroom to collaborate with other classrooms via Skype, e-mail, snail mail, or various other ways.  At the end of this project, all results collected are displayed in graph form, available in a downloadable spreadsheet, and participants are placed on a map. This project easily incorporates math, literature, science, art, history, technology, spelling, and more.

What’s Ahead?:

ProjectsByJen has 6 more planned projects for the school year, including The Holiday Card project in December, which truly brings the holiday spirit into your classroom in a very geographical way. The St. Patrick’s Day project blends graphing, sorting, and estimation into the K3 classroom. A new project, “Picture This”, where 24 different classrooms will share in creating a masterpiece of collaboration will be hosted for Spring. 

Reviewer’s Notes:

ProjectsbyJen is offerered at no charge to classrooms around the world.  However, to subsidize website expenses, I do offer a monthly newsletter, Wordle Packets can also be found at http://www.projectsbyjen.com/, along with  a book entitled “35 Tech Tips for Teachers”. 

Glogster EDU


Reviewer: Sharon Ferguson M.ED. Edu

Position: 2nd grade Teacher

District/School: Fulton County Schools, Findley Oaks Elementary, Georgia 

Number of Schools/ Findley Oaks Students: 58 Elementary Schools/800 students

Product: Glogster EDU

Reviewer’s Notes: A Glog is like a poster, only better. Glogs allow students to create online posters using photographs, images, graphics, video clips, audio files, and hyperlinks. Glogster EDU is a great way to showcase what your students have been learning. Posters are very easy to embed on your classroom Wikispaces, Blogs, or Websites.


When using Glogster EDU, the classroom comes alive and the interest of the students broadens.  Higher-level thinking is obtained and some of the objectives we are looking for to engage our students can be plugged into. This website allows the students to creatively express themselves and offers an opportunity for them to retell/demonstrate the knowledge that they have learned. The highest level of Blooms Taxonomy is to take information learned and create something to represent that understanding.  Glogster EDU allows this to happen through collaboration and while having fun.


Glogster EDU gives the user the opportunity to create something unique and interesting that can be shared.

Learning Curve:  

Whenever something new is introduced to teachers, they are always apprehensive because their plate is full and who has time to add some new application to it. This is the easiest Website to maneuver through. If I can use it successfully anyone can.

How We Use It: 

Teachers can use this site to showcase their students.  Put a Glog together that explains/showcases some of things that their students have been doing/learning in the classroom.  Webquests can be easily put together to make finding the information you need fun.  Learning activities can be collected and linked from a Glog. Students can take the artifacts that they have collected and attach them to a page that includes links, videos, photos, and so much more.

Reviewer’s Notes: Students can show what they have been learning to their friends and family easily. Students can collect artifacts that they have researched, found online, created, and/or photographed, and display their findings in a report form that is creative.

Google Sites for Interactive Class Content: Jennifer Levy

Jenni2 Reviewer: Jennifer Levy

Position: Social Studies Teacher

School / District: New Milford High School, New Milford, NJ

Number of Students in District/School: 3,300

Product: Google Sites, COURSEsites.com by Blackboard



To create an interactive website that provides course content, contact information, homework, class newsletters, syllabi, permission slips, classroom rules, SAT and college admissions information, and allows students to submit work directly to me.


Students are able to access the website easily, parents are able to check student progress, and my supervisor can view what I am doing in class both daily and monthly.

Learning Curve:

Google sites, along with Google docs and Google forms from Google, are very easy to use. You need to allocate some time to create your website, but you can always save it and come right back to it where you left off. You do not need to know anything about programming to do this. I have been able to edit and set it up without issue.

How We Use It:

Students go onto the course website during class to fill in online questionnaires, take quizzes or tests, or finish up non-essay related homework. At the beginning of the year, students submit their contact information and a little about themselves to the website.

Using Google forms along with the website has enabled students to take tests and polls. I have even used it successful to launch mock APs, SATs, and HSPA format exams. It does best with multiple choice or short response questions. I can program it easily to create spreadsheets and target individual student and class weaknesses. Your student answers in a Google spreadsheet  is similar to working in an excel document, but in my opinion it’s better, because you don’t need Windows Office software.

What's Ahead?:

Goals for the future...

Using my website to have students submit their essay-style homework to a central database (like a cloud) without having students email me, as well as using the new Blackboard COURSEsites.com to help accomplish this.

Assistive Technology Creates Independent Learners

Saywire GarzaReviewer: Sally Garza
Position: Upper School Technology Director
District/School: Lawrence School, Upper School, OH
Number of Students in School:  225
Products:  Saywire, Read & Write Gold by Texthelp, Kindle for PC App with Accessibility Plugin


Lawrence School serves students with learning differences, many of whom need assistive technology to read or as a prosthetic processor to make reading an easier task. Our technology goals are to offer tools that allow students to become independent learners, and collaborate and communicate outside of school for school and social purposes.


Once students and teachers are trained it is very easy to use the tools. Saywire has allowed our students, middle school students in particular, to do school work and keep in social contact with their peers in a safe environment. The school monitors within Saywire.

Learning Curve:

Most of the software is fairly intuitive to learn, requiring training for staff but not as much for students. We do about 15 minutes of technology training for each staff member each week on specific tools in Read & Write Gold and Saywire to make it easier to use.

How We Use It:

Using the Kindle App for PC with Accessibility Plugin with Read & Write Gold (assistive technology software) allows books to be read aloud by the computer for students with dyslexia and other visual processing issues. Then students post reviews of the summer reading book in Saywire, the school online learning community as well as post their projects about their books.

What’s Ahead?:

We are going to expand the Kindle App Library to all students in the Upper School. We are also continuing to use Saywire in our classrooms for class/course pages, and incorporate it into “Calamity Days” plans for online school days through Saywire for weather cancellations.

Blog Back To School: Cynthia Alaniz

CACynthia Alaniz
Blog Back to School
: 4th Grade Teacher, Team Leader
Denton Creek Elem. School, Coppell ISD, Coppell, Tx
Number of students in district/school
: 10,000/507

On the first day of school in classrooms everywhere, teachers explain procedures, calm anxious students, and create excitement for the upcoming year. We also answer many, many questions such as, Where do we line up? Do we have homework? And how do we check out books? But in my classroom students will also ask, What is a blog? 

I began my foray into classroom blogging last year, so the lessons are new for me, too. After a full school year of independent study, reading tech tips, and maintaining a weblog, I am now more familiar with blogging and the lessons I now must incorporate into my usual beginning-of-the-year list. Blogging has had a great impact on my instruction. Because I have seen its power to generate excitement among nine-year-olds, I incorporate this Web 2.0 tool daily.

My classroom blog helps me build a classroom community.  I use it to communicate with parents, and to promote literacy, develop writing skills, and enhance content knowledge.  We recap our learning of the day, making it available to students who are absent, or those who need clarification.  We respond to books, comment on topics, and share our learning. One Web tool has so many uses!

But as with any other tech tool, I must model its use.  I first teach how to access our blog from a link on my school webpage. Once I show my students how to access the blog, I have them create bookmarks to it on our iPod Touches. (With the help of a QR code posted right outside my door, the blog is accessible to any parent, staff member, or guest with a smartphone.) 

After showing students how to access, I introduce its features.  Here I use terms such as post, comment, sidebar, and blog archive. For some, this will be the first experience with a blog. I show that a post can be various lengths, can incorporate links and pictures, and may have one author or several.  Above all, a post must be interesting!

On the first day of school, we will write a post together, and I will compose in front of them, modeling my process and thinking.  (As a writing teacher, I have ulterior motives. Blogging helps me nurture voice, create excitement about composing, and offer topic choice.) As we chronicle events, procedures, and science experiments, our blog becomes our own digital notebook---one that doesn’t tear, wrinkle, or stain. I will unashamedly and unabashedly use our blog to teach revision, idea, process, and organization. 

Our blog will extend our shared physical space into a virtual one. Together, the students will write, edit, and maintain the blog as a shared, co-authored publication.   Our learning goes beyond the calendar, beyond the clock, and beyond the four walls of our classroom.

Online Professional Development: Assist. Supt. Julie Rolling

Ascd2 Reviewer:
Julie Rolling

Position: Assistant Superintendent, Learning Teaching and Family Support

District: Puget Sound ESD, WA (PSESD)

Number of Students in District: 383,000

Products: ASCD PD Online


I wanted to offer a variety of K-12 professional development to meet educators' range of needs. Given Seattle's traffic issues and educator's busy schedules, driving to a region workshop is not feasible for most. So, having the opportunity to access online, high quality, professional development on their own time and in the location of their choosing was critical.


Each year the number of classes taken has increased significantly and the response has been very positive - the content is very high quality, relevant to their teaching setting and convenient way of learning new information to better serve students. Educators appreciate hearing from experts, and applying what they’ve learned to their own setting, as well as being able to work at their own pace.

Learning Curve:

The online sessions are very easy to use.  PSESD simply surveys educators to gather needs and offers technical assistance as needed. We rarely hear of problems with the use of the product. We offer continuing education and graduate credits from local universities to make the learning connect to recertification goals.

How We Use It:

Online classes supplement the in-district professional development that educators already receive. These classes often fill a need for individual teachers that is different than the needs of their entire staff. For instance, many new teachers find the sessions on classroom management helpful, and others offer another learning opportunity for a topic that has great depth, like differentiated instruction. Experts, like Bob Marzano, have come in to work, and then we utilize the online classes prior to or after the face-to-face sessions to help educators deepen and apply learning.

What's Ahead?:

We will survey educators in the region and offer classes that meet their needs. We will also continue to offer existing classes that are popular, as well as new sessions based on the changing needs of the region. Furthermore, we would also like to connect with individual districts to see if we could partner to offer sessions based on their improvement goals.

CoveritLive for Class Discussions: Art Titzel

Art headshotReviewer: Art Titzel

Position: 8th grade American Cultures Teacher

District/School: Derry Township School District, Hershey Middle School, PA

Number of Students in District/School:  3,500/900

Product: CoveritLive


1. Extend classroom discussions to live events such as presidential debates, state of the union, and other events that would normally be classroom discussions. 

2. Use as a way to hold moderated evening review sessions prior to exams.

3. Connect with classes from around the world. 


Most students love the opportunity to connect with one another outside of school—even for academic purposes. Some parents expressed shock that their child would spend his/her own time to seriously discuss the current events online.

Learning Curve:

CoveritLive is relatively easy to use. There are numerous options for creating a live event, but CoveritLive provides easy to use tutorials in their Support Center. Events need to be created in advance. I also recommend creating a practice event with a few of your colleagues prior to going live with students.

How We Use It:

I save relevant links and create polls with questions I want to ask during the debate. CoveritLive allows Debate1
you to pre-plan an event with audio, images, video, links, polls, and pre-written text. The more content you add ahead of time the better.  

Once the pre-planning is done I copy and paste the embed code into my class Wiki, where students access the event. I always announce to the students when the event will go live and how long it will last. When time arrives I launch the event and begin to moderate the student comments. Time goes very quickly during an event because as a moderator you are commenting, approving student comments, direct messaging students who did not follow posting expectations, adding media content, and generally guiding the discussion.  

It is possible to allow a certain number of people to post comments without moderation. Most of my students respect the expectations and comment appropriately, because they know this is a class event that is archived for replay. The next day in class we typically take time to discuss the actual event and our CoveritLive event.

Whats Ahead?:

I want to continue to use CoveritLive for involving students in relevant live events outside the classroom, such as the upcoming 2012 election debates and election night, as well as for connecting with other classes from around the world.  



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.