It’s Always About the Learning and Never About the Device

In a perfect world, schools would never have to worry about budgets. Teachers and students would have at their avail any technology tool they wished. But we all know the perfect world will never exist. Educators need to overcome the mindset that hardware and software always needs to be uniform.

Without a shadow of a shadow of a doubt, the biggest lesson that #byotchat has taught me in the past three years is that success within a BYOT classroom has nothing to do with learning technology. It’s about reimagining learning outcomes. It’s about letting go of the personal fears of not being in total control of every action. It’s about not needing complete uniformity with technology, and it’s about giving students the opportunity to create.

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9:00 pm ET

Principal McGee Isn’t Making our Morning Announcements

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 11.29.48 AMRemember how Principal McGee would make the announcements at Rydell High School in the musical “Grease?” Take away the secretary’s xylophone, and you wouldn’t be far from the actual way many schools made announcements in the past.

For years our school, like many others, had done announcements over our intercom system. Last school year, we stopped reading announcements over the intercom and started emailing announcements and posting them online. Change isn’t always easy in education, and this change wasn’t fully supported by all of our faculty and students. In the end, the benefits of going with digital announcements exceeded reverting back to announcements being read over the intercom.

In our first year of digital announcements, we made three mistakes.


announcements written to read are different from announcements written to be published.

At first, we kept writing announcements like we wanted them to sound over the intercom. Spoken announcements do not always translate well to written announcements. If we have rigorous demands on our students written communication skills, our morning announcements should reflect these demands.


Our second error was that we failed to take full advantage of the digital format. Our announcement remained exclusively in text format. Even though we had the capabilities to include pictures, audio, video (school YouTube channel) and so much more, our announcements remained exclusively in a text format.

Our announcements were announcer-centered not student-centered.

Our third error was that even though we wanted our students to know what was occurring in school, we didn’t send out announcements until 90 minutes into the school day. Even though we are a BYOT school, students rarely had time to check their email, school website, or school social media sites to learn about the announcements. We would post a printed copy of the announcements on a bulletin board in the main hallway, but with only three minutes between classes students didn’t have time to stop and read announcements.

Our new approach

This year we have made some significant changes that have not only improved student’s awareness of school events, but has fostered better communication skills between students and faculty.

Our first goal was to get the morning announcements out to students, faculty, parents, and the community prior to school starting each day. Our second goal was to take advantage of the digital format and to make the announcements something students wanted to read. To accomplish our goals, our faculty and staff only had to do two things.

  • Submit announcements by 7:45 AM
  • Write announcements for print

Along with these two requirements, we encouraged faculty, staff, and students to submit photos and videos of events at our school. Our morning announcements are now more appealing and engaging. Our delivery of announcements focuses not just on the announcements, but also the design of the announcements.

Our present day announcements

Our teachers have been great about sending me announcements throughout the day (or even a few days in advance). As I receive announcements, I paste them into a Google Doc. Within the Google Doc, I format the announcements, add photos and external links. Any PDFs that the school would like distributed are uploaded to our school website and then a link to that file is included in the announcements. I make it a habit to not include attachments.

At 7:45 a.m. each school day, I email announcements to all students, faculty and staff. I then copy and paste our morning announcements on to our school website, and our school Facebook page. Finally, I tweet out a link to our announcements via our school Twitter account.

Gone is the bulletin board

This year we are in a new building. Gone are the old main hallway, the bulletin board and the practice of posting a printed copy for students to read. Replacing the bulletin board is a flat screen television in the cafeteria. Announcements are now displayed on a television using Rise Vision software and a Chromebox.

Going one step further

We recently included a survey within our announcements with goals of:

  1. Learning the students’ preferred way of receiving announcements (school email vs. school social media vs. school website).
  2. Learning what the students wanted to have included in the announcements.

The results of the survey were that students preferred reading announcements via school email over our website or social media. Getting students to check their school email accounts routinely was a huge win for us and has resulted in faculty being better able to communicate information to their students.

Students also told us that in addition to school events, pictures and videos, they also wanted their announcements to include:

  • Information regarding colleges
  • Tips on being a better student
  • Technology tips to be more productive students

We’re making plans to include this additional information in further improving our lines of communications.  Now that we have made these changes to our digital announcements going back to announcements being read over the intercom would be a huge step backwards.

Kaizena + Permanent Clipboard = 1 Great Workflow

Teachers often comment that they prefer to grade written assignments by hand.  If your school is moving to a “paperless” or “paper-lite ” environment, then this combination of “Permanent Clipboard” + “Kaizena”  might be ideal workflow for you.

  1. Add the Chrome extension “Permanent Clipboard” to your Chrome browser. (For assistance, read “7 Recommend Chrome Extensions“).
    1. Click on the “Permanent Clipboard” extension and enter frequently used comments.
  2.  Add the Chrome app Kaizena (A great video demonstration by Stacy Behmer @sbehmer at

7 Recommend Chrome Extensions

What is a Chrome Extension?

“Extensions are small software programs that can modify
and enhance the functionality of the Chrome browser.”

“What Are Extensions?” – Google Chrome. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.


Extensions, that are installed, appear to right of the URL address bar (also called the “omnibox”).

what an extension looks like

Where can you get CHROME EXTENSIONs?

Chrome Extensions are available thru the Chrome Webstore located at

chrome webstore


  1. Click on the “+ FREE” blue box
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  2. Click “Add” in the pop up box
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  3. Your newly installed extension now appears to the right of the URL address bar.


1. Evernote Clipper

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Evernote Clipper allows you to conveniently send  information to your Evernote account. People who use Evernote, love Evernote!  It’s the absolute best way to organize practically everything that is digital. Evernote Clipper allows you to not only send web information directly to Evernote, it also so allows you to annotate a webpage before saving it.


Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 12.21.21 PM  is a convient URL shortener.  In addition to shortening a URL, wil also provide you with analytics and a QR code. Having this extension at the top of your Chrome browser will prove to be very helpful.

googl options

3. Tab cloud

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If you have multiple tabs opened within Chrome,  with Tab Cloud  you can save all the open tabs as one set.

4. Permanent Clipboard

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If you are commenting on Google Docs, then this is for you!  Teachers often find themselves making 75% of the same comments to  75% of the students.  Use Permanent Clipboard to store multiple comments.

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5. Easybib

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Easybib extension automatically creates citations and bibliographies in MLA, APA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. The citation included at the top of this post was made with using the EasyBib extension.

6. Spreed

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“Spreed – speed read the web”  Simply highlight the text right click and select “Spreed selected text.”  Spreed does help you read online content faster.  You can choose the number of words seen at a time, and the number of words per minute.

Side Note:  Spreed only works with text that is posted online.  If you want to do the same thing, but with text from a document (of pdf), use website AccelaReader.  (A Chrome app for AccelaReader is available.)

7. Speakit!

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Speak it converts text to speech using Google and iSpeech abilities.  Not only for students who need help in reading, but it is also can be used to assist students in proof-reading / editing papers.

Do you have a favorite Chrome extension not listed above.
Please leave a comment and share your recommendation.
Thank you.

6 Ways Schools Derail Their Own Tech Initiatives

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in
escaping from old ones
.”    John Maynard Keynes

Geoffrey Moore describes his “Technology Adoption Life Cycle” as, “… how different groups of customers adopt to discontinuous innovation at different times.”   Besides being used as a marketing tool, it has been applied, by educational leaders, in the discussion of the adoption of technology initiatives.

In following Moore’s theory, marketers focus on each group of consumers individually.  Starting first with the “Innovators.”   The “Chasm” is the significant differences between the “Early Adopters” and the “Early Majority.” To cross the chasm, marketers, looking at recruiting the “Early Majority,” must make significant changes to the marketing strategies they had used with the “Early Adopters.”  The inability to cross over the chasm will doom the technology adoption process.

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Marketers look at crossing that 16% buy-in as a sign that their technology initiative will be successful.  But, what if a school gets to that 16% buy-in level, and then discovers that their previous actions have made crossing the chasm a more challenging, if not impossible, task? 

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Here are 6 ways schools inadvertently widen their chasm.

  1. Enabling those who have not bought into technology
    Example 1: The administration wants teachers to do routine tasks (lesson plans, online calendar …) electronically, but teacher ‘A’ ignores the request and the administration allows this.
    Example 2: Committee members are asked to collaborate online with each others, but teachers ‘B’ & ‘C’ claim to be too busy to learn how to collaborate online. They are “allowed” to only collaborate with each other, thus hurting the entire committee.
    Example 3: Teacher ‘D’ continues to receive high reviews and praise as a professional while finding it perfectly acceptable to publicly label him/herself as “
    bad with technology”  and then uses that label as an excuse to not adopt the initiative. Sadly, teacher “D” will probably never develop a professional learning network.
  2. Endorsing the anti-tech views of the  “Late Majority” and “Laggards”
    Example: Without a doubt, listening to contrary views is important. Leaders who embrace the “silo effect”  by not listening to opposing views often fail.  But giving those, who want the initiative to fail, an official platform to stand on and to express those views, could bring the technology initiative to stand still. Others, who view these “Late Majority” and “Laggard” teachers as leaders, may see these anti-initiative views as the correct path to follow.  The appropriate time to give credence to all views would have been prior to the launch of the initiative.  
  3. Not setting clear expectations to everyone involved 
    Example: Imagine a business that had made a substantial financial investment in machinery, which would dramatically increase productivity, giving their employees the option to use it or not.  That simply wouldn’t happen – with investments should come expectations.  
  4. Dwelling on what hasn’t happened, instead of praising what has happened and what will happen
    Example: If we focus too much energy on those who have done very little or nothing at all, instead of focusing on those who have had great success, then the initiative will be perceived as a failure. Who wants to buy into a failing initiative? Instead, focus on the good that has happened – even the small steps.  Give those who have made changes more opportunities to lead. Alienating those who have not yet bought into the initiative  will  definitely widen the chasm.
  5. Remain quiet for fear of failure
    Example: This is the self-fulfilling philosophy of “Let’s not make a big deal of this initiative in case it doesn’t work.”  If the initiative is not a big deal, then why care about its success?  Instead of remaining quiet for fear of failure, plan to succeed. 
  6. Failure to adjust professional development
    Example: The “Visionaries” may only need professional development (PD) that touches on how to use the technology.  As the adoption process passes through the “Visionary” stage into the “Early Adopters” stage,  PD needs to center around the “why” and not just the”how.” Schools should never assume that those who have not adopted the technology initiative haven’t because they can’t – most likely they haven’t because they don’t see why.