Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Doing More With Less: Make MS Word Work for YOU (and your students, too)

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I haven’t met one teacher yet this year who doesn’t feel stretched beyond thin by trying to meet instructional demands with less resources.  With money being tight and the continued and important need to differentiate for diverse learning needs, if I told you that there were tools within Microsoft Word (therefore free) that would make YOUR life easier AND also help out students, you’d want to read on, right?

Okay, well, so as not to overwhelm with every helpful feature Microsoft Word offers, in this posting let’s focus on MS Word’s tools for reading.


  • There are students in your class that are not quite reading on grade level.
  • There are students in your class for whom English is not their first language.
  • There are students in your class who, albeit very infrequently, are off task.
  • There are students in your class who might be absent.
  • There are students in your class who might be pulled out for various reasons or activities.
  • Your students have the occasional need to read. J
  • There are students in your class who require directions, tests, or assignments to be read aloud.
  • You have students who need these directions, tests or assignments read aloud and repeated multiple times.
  • You wish it didn’t take so much man-power to read aloud to students.
  • You have a teacher computer.
  • You have Microsoft Word.
  • You use Microsoft Word documents (handouts, tests/quizzes, templates, tables, etc.).
  • You have some ability to use a computer lab or mobile laptop carts.
  • You remember something about there being technology TEKS and students being 21st century learners.
  • You have a sense of humor.

Insert Voice/Sound Object

The first tool I want to share is called “Insert Voice/Sound Object.”  Teachers (and students) who use the Insert Voice/Sound feature within MS Word have been extremely happy with how easy and powerful it is.  Its functions allow any document to be turned into a “talking” assignment or test and can free up the time staff spends reading aloud to students.  It records for up to one minute, but you can insert voice comments as many times as needed to read a test in its entirety.  I actually recommend that for tests, separate voice recordings are done for each question and each answer choice so that a student can easily replay a segment without having to listen to previous questions or answers.

Advantages to using technology to support the accommodations already being provided are that duplication of effort from staff are reduced; and maybe more importantly, it allows students to practice and gain independence.  After all, in college, students will not have an assistant to read to them.  Additionally, students can listen at their own pace, have text re-read as often as needed, and possibly be able to remain in class to take a test.  This is what full access to the curriculum is all about.

I should mention that inserting voice comments will require a headset with a microphone.  (A Logitech USB headset with microphone is easily available and around $20.)

Finally, the applications for inserting voice comments into Word documents are more robust than described here.  An example of another use might be to copy and paste text, articles, or passages from other sources (Internet, PDF, etc.) and imbed guiding questions in frequent chunks, or reminders to students for use of cognitive or summarization strategies.  Get creative!  While it may seem like more work up front, it will certainly pay off; you’ll have this document for as long as needed and for as many students as needed.  The voice file stays with the document and can be emailed, “saved as,” and transferred or stored without problem.

To learn how to Insert Audio/Voice into Word Documents view these videos:

Word 2007-

Word 2010 –


The second tool that I think is essential for differentiation and freeing up teacher time spent reading aloud to students is the free downloadable text-to-speech plug-in called WordTalk (  In contrast to a human voice reading text, this is a software/computerized speech that also has the ability to highlight each word that is being read. Additionally, it contains a talking dictionary, talking synonym finder and can convert text-to-mp3 so that students can listen to the document on their portable mp3 player (iPod, etc.).  The WordTalk plug-in creates an “Add-In” tab with a toolbar that offers customization of male/female computerized voices, speed, volume, and color of highlighting bar.  All of the advantages discussed earlier apply, with the added bonus that no teacher prep time is needed in order to create a talking test/handout that is done in Word (or copied and pasted into Word).  The drawbacks that might be encountered are that some students don’t like the computerized voice and that some words are mispronounced by the program.  Definitely download this to try on your home computer and then be sure to ask your IT department to check it out and consider putting it on the district network so that any student anywhere can access this support if needed.

Don’t Forget These

I was in an inclusion classroom recently where students were answering comprehension questions using evidence found in the text.  The teacher was leading the discussion as a whole group activity, projecting the questions from her computer (in a Word document) onto her white board.  The kids were engaged and thinking, pairing and sharing, but if we wanted to easily layer in extra supports or perhaps provide necessary accommodations, we could consider options such as:

  • Enlarging the font  (this is 14)
  • Using sans-serif fonts (simpler, clearer) [This is Calibri]
  • Increasing the spacing between the lines (this is 1.5)
  • Bolding or highlighting key words/phrases
  • Inserting graphics to support comprehension or memory of important info for a test (Clip Art, shapes)
  • Using graphic organizers such as SmartArt or the templates in Word:

  •  After modeling these features during class discussions, encourage or assign a student helper to take over.
  •  The assignment could then be printed or emailed to a student as a copy of classroom notes or to use as a study guide.

Take a moment to compare the text immediately above with the Times New Roman font and format this post began with and see which one best grabs your attention and is easiest to read.  I hope at least one of these features might be helpful.  Happy Teaching!

To learn how to use these features use:

Google Earth in the Science Classroom

Monday, December 12th, 2011

As I write this, I am flying high over the New Mexico desert glancing out the airplane window marveling at and wondering about the world below me.  The rectangular fields, the alluvial deposits from ancient rivers long dry, the plateaus, hills and mountains all captivate me and remind me how incredible our planet truly is.  I also wonder at the forces that created all these features.  Fields, well, they are man-made so those are easy to figure out, but the natural features astonish me.  How high were the mountains before erosion took hold? How high are they now?  How wide are the alluvial deposits? How much material do they represent, where did it come from, and how long have they been forming? What geologic wonders am I missing by sitting on the south side of the plane?


erosional features

Unfortunately, not all of our students will fly at 30,000 feet over mountains just as we try and teach them the true power of erosional and depositional forces, nor will they see this view of their own town to realize that similar (although smaller in scale) features are found almost everywhere.  Luckily technology exists to enable you and your students to view almost any place on Earth from any altitude, and better yet, the technology is FREE!!  Free?  Yup, free.  All that is needed is a computer and an Internet connection.  Ok, yes, some of you will also need your technology folks to install software for you; but other than time, it’s free.

While there are multiple places to find satellite images I have two favorites: Google Earth and NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Google Earth, which does require installation, allows users to view photographic satellite (or airplane) images of almost any place on Earth.

While the software can take a few minutes to learn it is easy to get started.

Download at

Visit the following websites for more information on how to get started using Google Earth.  Also, make sure you are on our science listserv (sign up at to receive information about Google Earth workshops coming to ESC Region XIII in Spring and Summer.

STEM: Top 10 Resources

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Transformation 2013 T-STEM Center

Transformation 2013 T-STEM Center is a partnership between ESC Region XIII in Austin and ESC Region 20 in San Antonio. Transformation 2013 T-STEM Center serves central Texas and El Paso T-STEM Academies as well as other schools focusing on innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) instruction. The vision of Transformation 2013 is to provide the highest quality professional development, curriculum, and outreach programs emphasizing hands-on problem-based learning to create superior STEM scholars. Our “Top 10 STEM Resources” are cited below including a summary of each resource and a hyperlink to each full-text document.

1. Bybee, R. W. (2010, September). Advancing STEM Education: A 2020 Vision. The Technology and Engineering Teacher, 70(1), 30-35.

This document details the phases and goals of a decade-long STEM action plan to move STEM education beyond the slogan to make STEM literacy for all students a national priority. Initially, the purpose of STEM literacy must be clarified, and then the challenges to advancing STEM education must be addressed. Furthermore, the STEM curriculum will be advanced by presenting challenges or problems framed in life and work contexts involving STEM to engage students.

2. Fulton, K., & Britton, T. (2011, June). STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities: From Good Teachers to Great Teaching. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future:

The research compiled in this executive summary is based on a National Science Foundation‐funded project: STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities: A Knowledge Synthesis. The NSF Knowledge Synthesis indicates that STEM learning teams have positive effects on STEM teachers and their teaching, and students of teachers participating in STEM professional learning communities achieve higher success in math.

3. Hill, C., Corbett, C., & St. Rose, A. (2010). Why so few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from American Association of University Women:

This study was conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) on the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The summary emphasizes practical ways that families, schools and communities can create an environment of encouragement that can overcome negative stereotypes about the capacity of women in these demanding fields.

4. ITEEA. (2003). Advancing Excellence in Technological Literacy: Student Assessment, Professional Development, and Program Standards. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from International Technology and Engineering Educators Association:

As a companion document to the Standards for Technological Literacy listed below, this document provides a guideline for implementation of the standards in K-12 classrooms. It details important topics such as student assessment, professional development, and program enhancement, while leaving specific curricular decisions to teachers, schools, districts, and states.

5. ITEEA. (2007). Standards for Technological Literacy. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from International Technology and Engineering Educators Association

The content standards and related benchmarks indicate what all students need to know and be able to do to achieve technological literacy. The Standards for Technological Literacy provide the foundation upon which the study of technology is built.

6. Langdon, D., McKittrick, G., Beede, D., & Doms, M. (2011, July). STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration:

Growth in STEM jobs occurred three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs in the last ten years and as a result, U.S. businesses are expressing concerns with the availability of STEM workers. STEM occupations are projected to grow 17% between 2008 and 2018 compared to less than 10% growth for non-STEM occupations; therefore, STEM workers will play a significant role in future growth and stability of the United States.

7. Sanders, M. (2009, December/January). STEM, STEM Education, STEMmania. The Technology Teacher, 20-26.

The origin of STEM, the current status of how integrative STEM education is addressed for teachers and students, and the systematic changes that are needed to approach integrative STEM education are discussed. In a world where the STEM pipeline problem has been widely publicized, this article addresses the question “Why Integrative STEM Education?” rather than conventional STEM education to achieve technological literacy for all.

8. Texas High School Project. (2010, November 15). T-STEM Design Blueprint. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from THSP:

Used by T-STEM academies, the T-STEM design blueprint, rubric, and glossary serve as a guideline for building and sustaining STEM schools. The blueprint addresses seven benchmarks: 1) mission driven leadership; 2) school culture and design; 3) student outreach, recruitment, and retention; 4) teacher selection, development and retention; 5) curriculum, instruction, and assessment; 6) strategic alliances; and 7) academy advancement and sustainability.

9. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. (2010, September). Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in STEM for America’s Future. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from The White House:

The recommendations in this report suggest five priorities that provide a roadmap for achieving our STEM vision: “(1) improve Federal coordination and leadership on STEM education; (2) support the state-led movement to ensure that the Nation adopts a common baseline for what students learn in STEM; (3) cultivate, recruit, and reward STEM teachers that prepare and inspire students; (4) create STEM-related experiences that excite and interest students of all backgrounds; and (5) support states and school districts in their efforts to transform schools into vibrant STEM learning environments.”

10. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. (2010, March). ESEA Blueprint for Reform. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from United States Department of Education:

In providing students a complete world-class education and college and career readiness, we must strengthen STEM instruction and standards. The availability of grants will support the strengthening of state-wide STEM programs, and support districts in identifying effective instructional materials and improving teachers’ knowledge and skills in STEM instruction for all students.

Article by Karissa Poszywak
STEM Specialist
Transformation 2013 T-STEM Center at ESC Region XIII
Phone: 512-919-5139

Special thanks to Joules Webb, STEM Specialist at ESC Region 20, for recommending these top ten resources.

iPads and iPod Touches in Primary Grades: Inspiration, Ideas, and Practical Applications

Monday, December 12th, 2011

The writing of this article was prompted by numerous conversations concerning the use of iPad and iPod Touch (mobile learning device) technology in early child learning, primarily grades K-2.  I have been amazed by some of the transformative things happening in classrooms.  So, even if you teach older students, you will find much of this article useful; however, the examples are for the little ones.

As a father of a 1st grader, I am a first-hand witness to the power of iPad technology.  My daughter is actively engaged in practicing literacy and numeracy skills, problem solving and critical thinking each time she sits down with the iPad to “play.”  In your classroom, you can expect that same level of enthusiasm and engagement whether you have access to one iPad/iPod Touch or many.  The key is in how you integrate them into learning.

To begin, I really want you to be inspired by the possibilities.  Take 5 minutes to watch this video that showcases how mobile learning is revolutionizing teaching and learning from the earliest ages through, in this case, medical school.

The first frame-of-mind that must be accomplished is a transition away from thinking of the mobile learning device as a substitute for a laptop computer.  Yes, it is true that many similar tasks are possible, but the intended use and real advantages come from seeing how they differ.  Your mobile learning device more closely resembles an interactive station or learning game center than a productivity tool.  The apps are more frequently designed with interaction in mind, instead of production.

Think in terms of an implementation scale.

You will go from “zero to engaged” much more quickly when the apps you choose to integrate are “launch and learn.”  Along the spectrum, you may include apps that require the students to add input and data, but that is only needed for that learning session.  At the most complex levels are apps that are used to produce products like documents, presentations, photos and more.  These require much preplanning in order to determine the best way to manage and retrieve multiple student products on a shared device.  Remember, these devices were not built to be shared, but to be personal devices.

The next frame-of-mind to consider is: What practical uses for the device will make a difference for my students?  Successful implementation ideas include:

  • Centers – (try Oobies Space Adventure app)
  • Small Group Investigations – (try Pizza app)
  • Extra Practice – (try Letter of the Day app)
  • Chalkboard  or “hold up slate”– (try Whiteboard Free app)
  • eBooks – (try Toy Story app)
  • Story Telling – (try StoryLines, Comic Touch Lite, apps)

An important skill to practice as a teacher is building “Apptivities.”  An apptivity is a document or handout that gives students direct instructions on what and how you want them to use the app.  It should include screen shots of the app in various stages to visually guide them.  To do this, use the app to the point where you want to explain/instruct.  Then press both the home button (big round one on the front) and the power/lock button (top) at the same time.  This will take a snapshot of your screen and add it to the camera roll of that device.  You can e-mail that image to yourself, or hook the device up to a computer and use iTunes, or My Computer to just save it.  Once you have your screen shots, add them to your Word or Pages document along with instructions.

As a final note, I wanted to give you a short list of places and strategies for finding apps that will make your mobile learning devices a central and important part of everyday instruction.

From the Apple App Store, add these two apps:

  • App Tracker
  • Kinder Town

Each of these two apps are “app stores”  in such a way that they find, organize and present apps for you that can be filtered and searched based on your needs.

Also from the Apple App Store, add the app:


AppStart will teach you how to use and manage your devices.  It is full of tips and tricks that most people are not even aware they can do with their devices.

Assessment for Learning: Technology Supported Formative Assessment

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Every day in classrooms across Texas, technology tools are infused with quality instruction to boost engagement, simplify learning task management, differentiate for diverse learning needs and increase learning through exposure to content with multiple modalities.  Educators have who embrace the transformative power of learning with technology can also take advantage of the opportunities available for assessment for learning, a.k.a – Formative Assessment.

Technology-rich, authentic assessments and automated quick-checks for understanding can provide feedback to inform teachers on how to design instruction and students on how to continuously improve. In the publication “Meaningful Measurement”, author Lyndsay M. Pinkus points out:

Many formative assessment strategies address the teacher’s information needs, helping to answer questions critical to good instruction:

• Who is and who is not understanding the lesson?

• What are this student’s strengths and needs?

• What misconceptions do I need to address?

• What feedback should I give students?

• What adjustments should I make to instruction?

• How should I group students?

• What differentiation do I need to prepare? (Pinkus, 2009)

I encourage you to download and read the full publication “Meaningful Measurement”, specifically chapter 3 concerning formative assessments.


When you get a chance, passively observe K-12 students as they interact with the technology around them.  Watch as they courageously explore the buttons and features they encounter.  They risk getting stuck or lost. They risk creating a “mess” of the tool.  They risk having to ask for help, or look up answers.  Observe as they test a solution, evaluate its effectiveness and determine the next action based on the information they gather.  Or, more simply stated, click a button and see what happens.  You can literally watch learning happen, in real time.  Each action is a moment of self-teaching, learning, and formative assessment for the student.  A popular label for this type of learning is “Problem Based Learning” or in some more structured cases “Project Based Learning”.  Both are a form of “Performance Assessment” and work as your guidance system as you lead each learner down the path to understanding and demonstration.   Check out “Sources of Performance Assessment Tasks, Rubrics, and Samples of Student Work” for excellent examples, rubrics, tasks and more for each content area and general topics.


Here are a few notable technology tools that are simple to integrate and get powerful results when it comes to student quickly taking the “pulse” of learning to formatively assess student progress.

  • is “a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.” In short, it allows teachers to create a variety of short assessments, such as quizzes and exit tickets, that can be taken from any web enabled device.  The interface is extremely kid-friendly, even for young students.  Best of all, it does not require student accounts, but still provides somewhat detailed student performance data by name via secure e-mailed excel file directly to the teacher.  Visit for a preview.  The site says it is in beta as of this writing, but you can go to (teacher tool) and (student interface) and grab an account and start assessing right away.  Easy to learn… easy to use.


Use to quickly and easily set up an online place for students to post comments, questions, and answer your prompts.  Again, this does site does not require students to have accounts, and the posts expire after a time you decide, allowing for “easy cleanup” while still giving access to absent students.  You simply set up the room (one click) and share the URL.  Try this site for your next “exit ticket”.

  • Epsilen – Project Share Texas

You’ve heard the buzz, and perhaps had some professional work experience in Project Share as a Texas educator, but in case you are unaware, the project is now open for student enrollment and you are encouraged to use the learning management system with your students.  (Note: talk to your district and your Education Service Center about student accounts).  With the Epsilen platform (Project Share’s engine) you and your students can interact in a robust virtual learning environment that allows you to share files, use forums for discussion, real time chats for, full featured test/quiz making suite (and associated grade tools), wikis for collaborative writing, blogs for student publishing, electronic portfolios with interactive assessment rubrics and much more.  Having all of these tools in one, safe, uniform and free platform opens up a treasure trove of formative assessment opportunities.  For more information, feel free to check out our blog at or the State’s official page at  Also, feel free to contact Region XIII’s Project Share team at for more information and to inquire about training.

L. M. Pinkus, ed., Meaningful Measurement: The Role of Assessments in Improving High School Education in the Twenty-First Century (Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009).

Technology – New TEKS for the 2012-2013 School Year

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Technology Applications TEKS – New TEKS Ready for the 2012-2013 School Year

The Integration of Technology Applications TEKS (Chapter 126, Subchapters A – D) is required by Texas law. In grades K-12, it is common for this to be the shared responsibility of the core and enrichment area teachers.   The TA TEKS are a framework for curriculum that should be added to your written curriculum and included in best instructional practices.

In order for teachers to be successful, considerable professional development is needed to assist in authentic integration, documentation, and assessment of technology applications TEKS.

The TA TEKS have been significantly updated. It can be considered a re-write, not just an update. The updates are reflected in grades K-8.  Additionally, high school course choices are impacted.  School Year 2011-2012 is the year to familiarize staff with the new standards and prepare for the required implementation in school year 2012.  Additionally, Proclamation 2014 and the Instructional Materials Allotment approach to acquiring textbooks and instructional materials plays a significant role in how resources will be selected and purchased for the new TA TEKS.


For all grade levels:

  • Knowledge and Skills Statements and the Associated Student Expectations are:
    • More challenging
    • Appropriate to this generation of learners
    • Generic enough to scale and shift with technology changes over time
    • Specific enough to allow for accountability

This chart is an overview of the changes from the 1998 standards and the 2011 standards

  Technology Application TEKS 1998-2010

1998 Standards


Technology Application TEKS 2011-?

New Standards


Strands Original Four Strands

Foundations, Information Acquisition, Solving Problems, Communication


6 New Strands

Technology Operations and Concepts, Digital Citizenship, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Research and Information Fluency, Communication and Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation

Middle School Changes in bundling at Middle School

Subchapter B 126.12


Grades 6-7-8 Bundled

Middle School is now Subchapter
 B 126.14, 126.15, 126.16 Middle School

Now separate by grade, creating more clarity in responsibilities for grade level teachers

High School Changes in Courses at High School

Subchapter C

High School originally included: 7 Courses + Independent Study

Computer Science 1, Computer Science 2, Desktop Publishing, Digital Graphics and Animation, Multimedia, Video Technology, Web Mastering, Independent Study In Tech Apps



Subchapter C, High School – Updated

Significant changes in Student Expectations

New Courses Authorized + Independent Study (BOLD)

Fundamentals of Computer Science, Computer Science 1, Computer Science 2, Computer Science 3, Digital Forensics, Discrete Mathematics, Game Programming and Design, Mobile Application Development, Robotics Programming and Design, Digital Design and Media Production, Digital Art and Animation, 3-D Modeling and Animation, Digital Communications in the 21st Century, Digital Video and Audio Design, Web Communications, Web Design, Web Game Development, Independent Study in Tech Apps, Independent Study in Evolving/Emerging Technologies

Subchapter D, High School

Other Technology Courses

Advanced Placement in Computer Science, International Baccalaureate (IB) Standard, International Baccalaureate (IB) High


This year, school systems can begin to form local PLCs and committees to discuss:

  1. Course Catalogs  for High School Courses (perhaps Middle School as well)
  2. Curriculum/Technology Integration
  3. Professional Development
  4. Who will participate in reviewing instructional materials