Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

And still, outside of school, people wrote…

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Susan Diaz, Secondary Literary Specialist

In grad school, one of my professors assigned an article for us to read by Kathleen Blake Yancey, the former president of NCTE, entitled “Writing in the 21st Century.” (To read this article, go to  I distinctly remember falling in love with this article for several reasons: her writing style is AMAZING, she succinctly summarizes a history of composition in a mere few paragraphs, she reminds readers of the social nature of writing, she asserts that technology has allowed everyone to become writers and that these writers who embrace technology “want to compose and do” for each other, a real and defined audience.

I would like to focus specifically on Yancey’s views on the role of audience and the social nature of writing that has become more prominent because of technology.  Everywhere we look, we see examples of students writing—Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, text messages.  Deborah Brandt, professor emerita of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, calls this self-sponsored writing, “a writing that belongs to the writer, not to an institution” (Yancey 4).   In these platforms, our students mix text and media effortlessly and WILLINGLY in order “to share, to encourage dialogue, to participate” (Yancey 5).  Writers, and just as importantly, AUDIENCES are everywhere.  Our students dive into this digital environment yet they seem reluctant to write for us in the classroom.  We stick to the traditional model of literacy with pen and paper first, then the computer, and, finally, if at all, the networked computer.  We limit the power of the computer by only using it as a word processor.  We limit our students’ creativity and interest when we ignore how they “naturally” communicate through the writing.

Yancey ends her article with the idea that writing throughout history has mostly been for a public audience. “If this is so, we need to find a place for it both in our models of writing and in our teaching of writing.” (7). And this is exactly why our students write outside of school—because of an audience.  Shouldn’t we encourage this?


Yancey, Kathleen Blake, Writing in the 21st Century. NCTE Web,  31 July 2012.

T-STEM Project-Based Learning: Craft a Driving Question

Monday, February 13th, 2012

T-STEM Project-Based Learning:

The Texas High School Project (2010) defines Texas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Project-Based Learning (T-STEM PBL) as an inquiry-based instructional approach, in a real-world context, where students generate pathways and products that meet defined, standards-based outcomes.  This broad definition outlines the basic tenets of project-based learning that facilitate the integration of STEM and non-STEM disciplines.  Specifically, T-STEM PBL places an emphasis on providing a rigorous learning experience for students by meshing PBL principles with STEM concepts thereby increasing both student engagement and connectedness to real-world STEM issues.

The National Science Foundation (2007) states, “In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy.  To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, all students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.”  Through the integration of PBL and STEM, students engage in complex problem-solving that allows for multiple solutions while fostering research and collaboration.  Additionally, these authentic tasks allow students to develop skills and technical vocabulary utilized in specific STEM career fields.  The Transformation 2013 T-STEM Center provides PBL support to teachers as they learn to write driving questions that spark interest and propel students through a project.

Craft a Driving Question:

When a teacher begins planning a PBL, knowing the reasons why driving questions are used will assist in developing the right question for a project.  When students ask “Why are we doing this?” or “When will I ever need this?” the rationale for using driving questions becomes apparent:

  • To promote student interest:  The purpose of a driving question is to give students a reason to solve a problem or issue facing them.  Good driving questions will promote student interest and generate excitement for the upcoming tasks.
  • To direct students toward project goals:  Students often do projects without seeing the purpose behind it.  With a driving question students will have clear direction towards the project goals.
  • To address authentic concerns:  Driving questions should address authentic concerns.  How is the material used in the real world?  Select a question that would make the material relevant to the student.

An intriguing driving question is at the heart of an effective project, setting the tone for the entire PBL and focusing on the overarching concept of the PBL.  To consider how the guiding question relates to the real world, take the “big idea” for the project (what students will accomplish) and convert it into a realistic problem-based scenario that an employee might experience in the workplace.  Next, craft this into a problem or question that cannot be easily solved or answered.  It should be open-ended and composed of many parts that students can explore on a variety of levels.  Driving questions should elicit higher-level thinking, and students should be expected to use their critical thinking skills in order to derive an answer to the question.

Driving questions must also be linked to learning objectives so that students are gaining both knowledge and skills as they work towards the project’s answer.  Furthermore, the driving question must emphasize a high level of challenge so that students are not simply walking through review activities, but are fully engaged throughout the process.  Finally, when developing a driving question and PBL lessons, it is important to keep in mind the scope and sequence of both district curricula and the TEKS.

Four types of driving questions
There are four types of driving questions:

1.       Abstract, conceptual:  An abstract driving question is one that is answered by conceptual analysis. These questions are answered through logical argument.  There is no single, correct answer, and it is not easy to answer these questions with a one-word answer.  Students will need to justify their response to these abstract, conceptual questions through a variety of activities.  Examples:

  • What makes a book a classic?
  • When do we grow up?
  • Should art be censored?

2.       Concrete:  A concrete driving question is one that is answered mainly by the analysis of empirical evidence.  Students will need to do research to prove their answer.  In this case, there is a right answer, but there are several ways to approach the answer.  Examples:

  • Why did the dinosaurs become extinct?
  •  Is the water in our town safe to drink?
  • What effect does population growth have on our community?

3.       Problem-Solving:  A problem-solving driving question is answered by offering a reasonable solution.  For a problem-solving question, students have to work together to generate a solution to the problem.  Examples:

  • How can the government use monetary and fiscal policy to address an economic crisis?
  •  How can we create an effective networking system for a corporation?

4.       Design Challenge:  A design challenge driving question is answered by creating and executing a design that effectively meets requirements.  Here, the students are to use the engineering design process to answer the question.  Examples:

  • How can we design a local theatre that meets size limits and seats the most people?
  • How can we design a museum exhibit about World War II so that it appeals to diverse groups in our city?

The development of a driving question is central to the inquiry process and it must be established before deciding on project activities.  Furthermore, the natural outcome of effective project-based learning is a project completely driven by the question or problem statement and facilitated by the teacher.  To obtain more information on PBL and driving questions, view the following videos and contact us via our Transformation 2013 website (


Watershed Project: Craft the Driving Question

The Gender Project: Craft the Driving Question




Larmer, J., Ross, D., & Mergendoller, J. (2009).  PBLStarter Kit: To-the-point Advice, Tools and Tips for 
Your FirstProject in Middle or High School.  Novato,CA:  Buck Institute for Education.

National Science Foundation (2007) “National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education System.” Retrieved February 1, 2012,

Texas High School Project (2010).  “Texas Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Academy

Design Blueprint, Rubric, and Glossary.”  Retrieved February 1, 2012,

The Driverless Car: Flexibility and Imagination

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Imagine having the technology to have cars that drive without a human driver.  Think about it for a minute.  What will that mean for our daily lives?  How would that change your morning commute?  What other inventions may occur as a result of not needing to drive? Recently National Public Radio did a short story on the Driverless Car Technology and where it is now.  (  The driverless car technology is on the horizon.  What other inventions are coming that will change the way we think and how do we help prepare our students for this future that sounds like science fiction?

It is often said we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist right now and to use tools that we can’t even begin to imagine.  Our challenge is to use the tools we have now to prepare our students for this future.  In pondering this question and reading many articles, two main themes became very clear: flexibility and imagination.

We want the best schools but we seem to be stuck in the way things have always been done.  Parents and teachers expect school to look like the school they attended.  To prepare our students for their future, and not ours’, we need to realize that there will be major paradigm shifts in what is meant by “going to school.”  One small example of flexible thinking is how some schools are using online tools and websites like the Khan Academy site to “flip” their instruction.  Students don’t have traditional homework but they go home and watch instruction, and return the next day ready to practice with a content specialist.  Think about the implications of this model and how it dramatically changes the look of traditional homework.  A student may not need to complete a set of practice problems but watch a video or play a game and be ready to talk about and work on problems related to these experiences!  Not only do we need to be flexible about what it means to go to school, we must be flexible in our thinking about instructional technology.  We need to embrace the fact that whatever we have is going to need to be upgraded or it will become outdated quickly. This means that we will have to learn new technologies at a fast rate alongside our students.  As educators we must also remain flexible in our thinking and learning; we can no longer get our degrees and be ready for the rest of our career.  We must be the life-long learners that we are preparing our students to be. We must continue to learn and explore in order to create the best learning for our students. We must be willing to change and keep changing.

Let’s go back to our driverless car; you’ve probably seen one.   It might have been in a cartoon or movie, something viewed as wildly imaginative.  A lot of our own inventions were once just a part of someone’s imagination, something to make life easier, more productive or maybe just more fun.  To help prepare our students we need to provide opportunities for them to use their imaginations and to be creative.  Our original education system was designed to create workers, ones who could follow directions and do repetitive tasks correctly.  As our world is transformed by new knowledge, new technologies, and new connections, we can see that traditional tasks and roles being replaced or becoming useless.  We have to begin to imagine that some of what we teach now is not going to be useful at all; some of our content will become archaic.  Some of our techniques and strategies will become cumbersome as technology and other inventions will make things easier.

Imagine a classroom that is not a room.  Imagine a school day that is not a day, defined by bells and defined schedules.  Imagine a grade level that is not defined by an age.  Imagine teachers learning alongside their students, collaboratively and cooperatively.   Just imagine!

More fuel for your imagination may be found in these links to articles which were read in preparation for creating this article.  Some of them contain slightly controversial subject matter. We are sharing them only as different viewpoints, not as endorsements. This site offers 32 short chapters with paradigm shifting ideas and thoughts.  Be sure to watch the animation, it is fun! This link ties together goals of our original education systems and looks ahead to what will be needed.  This site has a “book” feel to it. This article talks about personalizing learning with technology tools  and gives some examples of how some schools are already changing.





Using Electronic Portfolios to Assess Student Growth and Mastery

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Have you ever given serious consideration to the idea of having your students collect and assemble learning artifacts into a well-organized portfolio?  Perhaps the idea is intriguing because your best intuition tells you that you can better assess real learning when growth is monitored over time instead of in one short event, such as a test.  According to research, a portfolio is “A purposeful collection of student work that illustrates efforts, progress and achievement in one or more areas.” (Paulson, Paulson, & Meyer, 1991). Portfolios are practical ways to showcase learning and demonstrate mastery of concepts.  The portfolio development process (leading to showcase) is a practical way to accurately depict growth in pursuit of that mastery.  The common goal of maintaining a portfolio is to continuously develop a purposeful collection of work and create a vehicle for constructive, developmental learning.

Technology tools have matured tremendously since the early days of discussing electronic portfolios.  Schools and teachers have tried, often with limited success, to use file servers, html web pages and more to create a showcase. But the barrier-to-entry and learning curve often made any attempt not worthwhile.  New tools, including those provided to all Texas educators through Project Share, have removed almost all of the hurdles and road blocks to successful and enjoyable e-portfolio development.

Ponder the major learning benefits for your students….

  • E-portfolios are effective in helping students become critical thinkers and aiding in the development of their writing and multimedia communication skills
  • E-portfolios help students become more technology literate
  • E-portfolios develop critical thinking skills and challenges learners to make connections among peers, professionals and learning experiences and to real-world applications

Categorize student e-portfolios into two categories: Formative/Learning portfolios and Summative/Showcase portfolios.  Formative/Learning portfolios:

  • Are intended to personalize learning experiences and provide a vehicle for collaboration, communication, and review by peers and professionals
  • Provide teachers with evidence of learning over time
  • Allow learning patterns to emerge which allow for the creation of personalized learning plans
  • Form the foundation for artifacts that will eventually end up on display in the Summative/Showcase portfolio.

Summative/Showcase portfolios:

  • Are organized after the work is completed over time, cleaned up and professional – removes elements not of interest to a non-participating reviewer
  • Provide opportunity to share authentic examples of work that represents more than grades
  • Work as a tool to focus interests and strengths on career goals and markets skills and characteristics specific to the target market and audience

As you consider how to begin an e-portfolio initiative, remember these important cues:

  • Students should organize and classify work into universally important abilities, such as communication, decision making, global perspective and aesthetic engagement.  Don’t be tempted to organize by unit title or other narrow topics.  You will need to think about your assignments and which major concepts they address.
  • Utilize rubrics to guide the learning along a path of increasing performance and quality.
  • Work with students to define both academic and personal goals for a long range showcase.  Coach them in understanding that the audience for their portfolio will evolve over the years.
  • Younger students will need much more structure and direct instruction than high school aged students.  Senior portfolios should be extremely self-directed.
  • Provide encouragement and opportunity for students to include artifacts from activities in enrichment areas and outside of school that fit their goals.

Finally, and most important of all, consider the sharing and reflecting components of e-portfolios as absolutely critical to the process.  This is likely the place of most discomfort and hesitation.  It is too often and easily skipped.  However, student work should be reviewed and constructively commented on by (as appropriate) teachers, peers, community, professionals, parents, and more.  Furthermore, the most essential step of all is the student self-reflection on selected artifacts.  For each included work, students need to write a personal narrative concerning the what, why, and how of the work as well as thoughts, comments and feelings about the level of learning, needs for improvement, pride in achievement and remaining questions.

There is still a list of critical questions for district IT, classroom practitioners and administrators that need attention for success.  Additionally, selecting the appropriate electronic platform can make or break a successful e-portfolio initiative.  Teachers are encouraged to learn the process of e-portfolio development by learning to create and maintain a simple professional e-portfolio for reflective practice and as a model for learners.  To assist with these needs, Region XIII offers targeted support services to ensure you have the technical and pedagogical knowledge that will empower you to succeed with e-Portfolios.  To discuss what we can do for you, send an e-mail to

Hebert, E. The Power of Portfolios: What
Children Can Teach Us About Learning and
Assessment. San Francisco: Jossey Bass,
Rolheiser, C., Bower, B., & Stevahn, L. The
Portfolio Organizer: Succeeding with Portfolios
in Your Classroom. Alexandria VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, 2000


Technology Tools Aligned to Type 2 Accommodations for Spelling

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Are you looking for technology tools aligned to Type 2 Accommodations for spelling? This matrix lists multiple options and provides live links for further information about each tool. You may access further information at


Download the Technology Tools Aligned to Type 2 Accommodations in Spelling PDF document below.

Also, don’t miss the  Lunch and Learn FREE Technolgy Webinar

Topic:  Type 2 Technology Tools for Spelling

Date: Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Time:  12 noon to 1pm

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:




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.