Friday, February 14, 2014

Tech in the Kinder Classroom

This week I have another guest poster.  Wes Pokorny is a kindergarten teacher at Clarkson Public Schools in Clarkson, NE.   Wes integrates technology into his classroom as often as he can as a supplement to regular instruction.

When Otis asked me to be a guest blogger I was very excited!  When I told my kids they laughed at me because I do not even own a cell phone!  I may not have a cell phone but I have embraced technology in my classroom.  Those of you who do not know me, my name is Wes Pokorny and I teach kindergarten in Clarkson, Nebraska.  I have been at it for 19 years.  When I started out my computers had “floppy” discs and weighed 25 pounds.  Here is a little view how I am using technology in the classroom.

I am not doing anything cutting edge but I do try to get technology into the student’s hands daily.  From day one the kids are using in their small group reading stations.  It is free to public schools and is an outstanding way for kids to reinforce their reading and math skills.  I am able to format lessons for each student and monitor what they are working on.  We are lucky to have a MacBook Pro cart right down the hall and I can get 6 computers with ease.  I also use during our small group time. is one of the best sights I have come across in my time teaching. 

Students also have access to iPads , which we use for reinforcement and practice.  We have all the apps that have been recommended by different folks on Twitter, Matt Gomez and some of his #kinderchat friends.  I am always looking for apps that force kids to use higher order thinking skills.  One such app is Kodable.  It is an app that introduces early elements of computer coding.  Cargo-Bot also does the same but is a little tougher for 5 and 6 year olds.

I personally use the iPad and an app called Splashtop Streamer as a remote control for my desktop.  It allows me to roam the room as I run our morning meeting or teaching various lessons.  If I want the kids to do some yoga I will use an application on my desktop called Reflector.   Reflector works with my iPad to put the app on my SMART Board so it is on a big screen.  I also use Reflector to show what the students are doing at their seats to the whole group.

I can’t even think of teaching without my SMART Board.  It allows me to be quite entertaining at times.  Yes, as teachers we must be entertaining in order to hold the students attention.  YouTube has so many interesting things to enrich our lessons.

This year I started preparing my lesson plans on Notability.  I like it because it also recognizes speech and turns it into type.  After I have the lessons I send them to Evernote.  Evernote is one sweet app.  I really like the ability to clip articles and save them.

We have used our Polycom cart to hook up with Santa and another class in Michigan.  This is something that I would like to do more of in the future.

Here is what is on the horizon for my students.  I am showing them how to use Explain Everything.  I am showing them how to take a photo and record their voice.  I then want to put their reading on YouTube so parents can listen to their progress. 

Like I said earlier I do not have a cell phone but I do have a Twitter account.  It has helped my professional development in many ways.  I try to look at technology with a “hybrid” mind a  little old school and some cutting edge. There will always be something new next week.  You have got to find a balance in your life.  How much time do you want to spend? Have you taken your students outside lately? Please make sure that your technology is not just babysitting your students. 

If you ever want to stop in and see what is happening in Clarkson feel free to give us a call and pop in!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Technology in the Spanish Classroom

A guest post talking about how to integrate some technology into the Spanish Classroom. This can even be done for any foreign language classroom. A huge thank you to Courtney Johnson for this post!

¡Hola! My name is Courtney Johnson and I am the Spanish teacher for East Butler Schools, located in Brainard. Being a world languages teacher offers a number of fun, useful, and exciting ways to use technology in my classroom to bring better language experiences to my students. Today, I will share 4 different ways that you can use technology in your world language classroom to create a more effective language learning environment.

If you have access to the internet and aren’t using Wordreference, you are making your life way harder than it needs to be. is an online dictionary, grammar forums, and a verb conjugator all in one site. It is a great resource for language learners of all sorts. My favorite part is the forums, which can help you find that odd idiomatic expression or figure the difference between two similar words.

2) Youtube
If you’re someone who is trying to use authentic resources, Youtube is a goldmine. You can find commercials, songs, and sometimes even full length videos of shows in the target language. With Youtube’s addition of subtitles, using videos meant for native speakers is even easier! If you are a Spanish teacher, there is a fantastic set of videos by Agustin Iruela, aka Video Ele, that were created for the purpose of teaching Spanish. These videos are from Spain and are organized by the European proficiency levels, but feature a wide variety of situations. The presenters speak slowly and there are subtitles available for many languages. You can find these videos at

3) Google Apps
What is a tech list without Google Apps? Google has really created something special. The best part of Google Apps, for a foreign language classroom, is the collaboration. Students can work on projects together, explore and describe different cultures in your target language, they can write “letters” to each other… pretty much anything you can think of! Besides using the obvious Docs application for creating standard written artifacts, students can also create presentations online. Another fantastic app to use is Forms. Forms can be used in a few different ways. I’ve used in my classroom to conduct a class survey (in this case, opinions about classes in Spanish 1) and then we can talk about the results - all in Spanish! An example of our survey results can be found here:

Another way to use Forms is to create mini-quizzes for students. I wouldn’t trust it for a summative assessment (too easy to flip screens to google an answer,) but they’re perfect for a quick comprehension check. One way I have used it is by telling a story in Spanish and then using Forms for a “pop quiz” the next day to see how much students remembered. The data was just for me, but it was very helpful.

4) Animoto
Animoto is a website I chose to research for my technology course while working on my master’s degree. I ended up being so interested, I chose to use it in my classroom! Animoto is a web app that offers free educational accounts. It takes a bit of setup, but the results are fantastic. With Animoto, the user provides images, video clips, and captions after picking a pre-set theme and music. After choosing their items, the Animoto animation engine creates a unique video based on the input. I had my Spanish 3 students create a project about a Spanish-speaking actor, musician, writer, or other type of artist during our art unit. Something that I liked about Animoto is that the captions have a short character limit, so it forces students to use short, concise sentences that keep their language readable for all students, not just high achievers. You can find a student sample of this project here:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow Day?

As I am sitting at home doing work on this snowy day, I am beginning to wonder with all the technology that is around are snow days obsolete?  With all the technology that is around I think that they can become a thing of the past.  Flipped classrooms, blended learning, learning management systems, and so much more to keep students and teachers in touch and learning on days such as this.

Let me state this before all of you start to put me on blast for the last paragraph.  There are still many access issues for students at home.  Just because you have the technology, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can use it on days like this.  Some students still don’t have access to those online materials and would be at a great disadvantage to those that do.  However, learning beyond the classroom can still take place on days like this.  If students are wanting to look ahead, get help on past assignments, get caught up from being gone.  They can still have access to their teachers.

I know that it is a shift in teacher thinking.  They want the snow day sometimes just as much as the kids do.  But as we try to move to a more blended approach to learning, we need to meet the students where they are.  It becomes a 24/7, anytime/anywhere learning situation.  Not only can this be used for snow days, but for students that must stay home because of sickness, doctors releases, or family reasons.

Some snow day, just have a twitter chat, a Google Hangout for virtual office hours, or a discussion online.  It might surprise you when more students show that they want to learn that way.