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Tech Helps Kids Do Important Things: Cheryl Arnett


Cheryl Arnett Reviewer: Cheryl Arnett

Position: Second Grade Teacher

District/School: Moffat County School District/Sunset Elementary School, Co.

Number of Students in District/School: 2,400/300

Products: Microsoft Office, Mouse Mischief, PhotoStory 3, Shoutlearning.org, Epals, Bing.


The objective of my project, encompassing all the technology listed above, was to engage my second grade students in meaningful learning by giving them opportunities to explore real world topics. They were encouraged to share their learning with others, including a world audience, and participate in service projects. The students learned that even at a young age they could make a difference and have a voice.


One of my students said it best, “Even little kids can do important things and make a difference.” Every adult visitor to our classroom, including experts, news reporters, substitute teachers, and the principal remarked on the students’ depth of knowledge, vocabulary, and confidence in discussing real issues. Parents reported that their children were excited about school and sharing their new knowledge at home as they made connections to real world situations.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve was adjusted as I put aside units and lessons I had taught in the past and, instead, took into consideration current event opportunities and the passions of the students, creating new lessons that would incorporate the different technologies. The lesson began with a standard or skill, and the available tools. Even at a young age, the students knew technology could be used to answer questions, and they were excited to use the technology tools to research meaningful real world topics. It was not necessary for me to have the answers to all their questions. We learned together.

How We Use It:

Gramcam We covered core skills and content, but we did so in the context of real life settings and subjects, using technology as the tool. We used Skype and flip cameras as students learned history by interviewing grandparents then producing a video using Windows Live Movie Maker and burning DVDs.

Students learned to create a brochure while studying the deer population in our city, using Microsoft Word. Students also Used Microsoft PhotoStory3 to create visual presentations of lessons, and Mouse Mischief to develop quizzes to test the knowledge of their peers.

What’s Ahead?:

Our school is using collaboration time to share innovative ideas and help other teachers make the transformation in their classrooms. The district is supporting innovation as well and exploring the best ways to use and incorporate technology for all students in all classrooms. Five local teachers have been selected to attend the Microsoft Partners In Learning US Innovative Education Forum in Redmond, Washington.

edmodo Collaboration & Communication: Andy McKiel

Andymckiel Reviewer: Andy McKiel

Position: K-12 Curriculum Coordinator

District/School: St. James-Assiniboia School Division

Number of Students in District/School: Approximately 8500 students

Product: Edmodo


Our administrators were looking for better ways to communicate student learning between school and home. Our teachers have been looking for opportunities to encourage their students to work collaboratively in online spaces in a safe and secure environment. Our students would like to have access to social networking tools within the classroom.


Edmodo has enabled our administrators to highlight events that are taking place within the school community. Our teachers have found that Edmodo has been a great tool to enable their students to demonstrate their learning and provide their peers with descriptive feedback. In addition, our teachers find that the secure nature of posting notes and assignments within Edmodo groups encourages their students to take more risks (safely) than if they were posting their thoughts and ideas more publicly to a blog.

Learning Curve:

Our staff has found Edmodo to be extremely easy to implement. We began our district implementation with a one hour webinar that could accommodate up to 50 self-selected teachers/administrators. Over thirty participants took part in the webinar, and we were able to highlight the many features of Edmodo, and provide participants with the details they needed to get started the very next day.   

How We Use It:

Many of our schools use the calendar feature within the Edmodo groups and communities to highlight upcoming events and activities. Classroom teachers are posting assignments and providing their students with descriptive feedback based on the work that they submit through Edmodo. Our teachers also share their questions and success stories with teachers in other schools throughout the district.  

What’s Ahead?:

We're currently focusing our efforts on increasing the number of teachers and students within our district who are using Edmodo to connect and collaborate. By encouraging our teachers to share their success stories, and describe the value that Edmodo has added to the teaching and learning that takes place within their classrooms (and beyond), we've found that other teachers are eager to get started.   

Reviewer’s Notes:

We've been thrilled with the positive impact that Edmodo has had in our classrooms and schools, and can't say enough positive things about Edmodo. This is an incredible tool for communication and collaboration, and the fact that it's free and easy makes Edmodo a tool that no teacher should be without...

RM Slate 1:1: James Monti

RM Slate
Jim2 Reviewer:
James Monti

Position: Director of Technology

District/School: West Warwick Public Schools, RI

Number of Students in District/School: 3,500

Products: RM Slate


We wanted to move toward ubiquitous wireless access everywhere in the district.

We knew that touchpad technology was the direction we wanted to move towards, but we were skeptical about moving to a non-flash environment. We also wanted a tool that we could use with Aspen, our SIS.


Students as young as kindergarten age have been using RM Slates. We know they're getting used extensively, because the most popular message our helpdesk has received is: "How do we clean dirty finger prints from the screen?" We love that type of helpdesk question.

Learning Curve:

By using the RM imaging services we were able to simply hand the tools out to students and teachers after a minimal run through for each machine. Students and teachers were able to use the machines qiuickly, and the Slates were pretty intuitive, regardless of user age.

How We Use It:

The Slate fits perfectly onto tabletops for our wheelchair bound students. It was fabulous that we could use existing assistive technology software. We started to use the RM Slates for some state testing at the 4th and 8th grade levels. Then we dropped the Slates into the classrooms, where they've been used non-stop by the teachers and students.

What’s Ahead?:

We want more! We want to find funding sources to purchase a Slate for every teacher and administrator for use with Rhode Island's new Educator Evaluation System.

KUNO 1:1 Android: Drew Markel Assist. Principal

  Drew Markel

Position: Assistant Principal

District:  Crothersville Community Schools, Crothersville, IN

Number of Students:  550

Product: KUNO Tablet with CurriculumLoft Explore 1 to 1


We wanted Android-based tablet environment for 1:1 to give each student a managed Internet and network capable device. We also wanted teachers to upload their current curriculum in a cloud environment so that building lesson plans will be as easy at home as it is at school.


All stakeholders were excited about the plan to implement a 1:1 initiative. The project is fully supported by the Board as well as teachers and students.

Learning Curve:

Many students are already acclimated to using touch-screen-based technology. The use of the KUNO was not a hard transition for the students to make at all. We added school-wide wireless in preparation for the project. We want our students marketable in today’s workplace.

How We Use It:

We are a rural, high poverty area. This means that many students don't have the means to obtain WiFi, or broadband access due to cost as well as location. We needed a way to allow for students to have their curriculum downloaded to a device that could be taken home with them and accessed later. The KUNO and CurriculumLoft Explore1to1 allowed for that “sync” to take place in the school where Internet access is available. The students can later return home and access that information, even if they don’t have Internet access.

What’s Ahead?:

We will be running a project parallel to the KUNO tablet project installing a complete VDI (Virtual Desktop) Solution. We will utilize CISCO UCS servers running virtual clients. These virtual instances will be available both on the students Wyse thin clients in a lab or classroom setting and in virtual instances on the KUNO.  All virtualization will be managed using the VmWare suite of products with an EMC storage array.

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.

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.

Challenge, Discovery, Insight, Surprise: Rader & Grzeda AP

Toni Rader and Nick Grzeda

Positions: AP English Teachers

District/School: Loudoun County High School/Loudoun County Public Schools, VA

Number of Students in District/School: 63,220 /1,410

Products: Microsoft InterroBang, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Movie Maker, Bing (Microsoft)



Our goal was to invite students to participate in real world learning that begins with a challenge (that’s the question mark) that leads to discovery and ends with insight and surprise (that’s the exclamation point).  We wanted to use students’ strengths to allow them to showcase their passions and expand their personal growth in ways that support any English curriculum and standards set for students of the 21st Century.  Using Microsoft InterroBang, a social-networked service learning game, students accepted ‘missions’ that had an impact in the community and once completed, each ‘deed’ was given points which correlated into the grading process. 


InterroBang was infectious. Our students competed with their online counterparts, as well as with each other. We greatly appreciated the very quick, continuous, private feedback students received from InterroBang online moderators.  Students’ work was never posted on the public sight for other comments until their work achieved a certain quality based on the game rubrics.  This consistent, supportive, and outside input from moderators inspired students to work really hard and helped us assess the improvement of their work or deed over time. We saw quiet students come out of their shells; disenfranchised students become engaged and excited once again, and saw intelligent students fully realize the purpose of the game with their insightful comments about what they learned of their family, their school, and their community. Parents were calling to say how the last month of their child’s senior year was the most amazing ever.  One said she saw her daughter’s fire burn stronger and watched her develop wings –to see her true potential. 

Learning Curve:

 The InterroBang website made the program easy to use and implement into the curriculum as it gave a thorough explanation of how the game works and provided a rubric on how points were assigned to completed missions.  The amount of supervision required for our 11-12th grade students was minimal.  Along with the game moderators – we supervised students’ wall postings, and the comments they posted in response to other students’ deeds. We could quickly flag any inappropriate postings. 

How We Use It:

To play InterroBang, students select a mission online, complete it in the real world, and post evidence whether it is pictures or video or song of their deeds online.  Game moderators require students to write about their deed and to especially reflect on what they learned.  As English teachers, we were fine having students select missions that appealed to their interests as we required them to complete written, oral, and visual components to pass the class.  One student explained the physics involved with his skateboarding. Another student painted a mural encompassing many students' responses to Martin Luther King's, "I Have a Dream" speech, capturing their dreams. Using Bing Translator, another student communicated directly with a Chilean student and learned about cultural differences and similarities. And, another student won for creating a music video which comments on his schools need for continued financial support as well as his interests in playing the drums and competitive swimming.

What’s Ahead?

In the future we plan to require more ‘missions’ that connect to core content material and require greater depth of critical thinking and research.

Arcade Math Skills: Ben Huebsh Learning Coach

BenHuebsch Reviewer:
Ben Huebsch

Position Held: Learning Coach

School: Horizon Elementary, KS

Number of Students: 450-500

Product: Arcademic Skill Builders 

Reviewers Notes: What’s at the site: arcade-style games that are propelled by correct answers to math fact questions. 


We wanted to find a motivating way for students to develop computational fluency. We were looking for a program that would isolate specific math facts to practice and could differentiate the practice based upon the needs of individual students. Furthermore, we wanted something that would help us track individual student progress. 


Parents enjoy this program, as their children can individually practice at home. Teachers like that it replaces boring “drill-fact practice worksheets.  As a Learning Coach, it is encouraging to see all students engaged and excited about math skills. They frequently ask when they will get to practice math facts next.

Learning Curve:

It’s fairly simple to use. On the front end, we spent some time registering the individual students. It takes a few minutes here and there to assign a new set of facts for students to practice as well, but it’s minimal compared to the gains. Our only limitation is laptop/computer availability.

How We Use It:

Students log in using their own created username and password. Upon logging in, students can choose from the “assignments” strategically assigned by the teacher.  Then they get to choose the style of arcade game (e.g. racing jet skis, shooting meteors, tug-of-war), to play while practicing the targeted set of facts.

Students can compete against a computer, classmates, a teacher, or people around the world in races, which depend upon the user’s speed and accuracy. They can play several rounds of the same game, or change games after each round. In some classes, this program is used as a station for students who aren’t working in a small group with the teacher, or working in cooperative learning rotations. 

In other classes, time is set aside for the whole class to practice their own individualized fact practice assignment. This is common on days when we have an irregular schedule and need a productive activity. 

At some grade levels, we have also used Arcademic Skill Builders as an ongoing intervention for students whose parents are willing to encourage their children to practice at home.

What’s Ahead?:

We are hoping to get parents and students on board to practice over the summer and over long vacation periods. This would help with long-term retention and automaticity of the math facts.



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.