Lynn's Blog

18 Steps to Get Organized With Tech Before the New School Year

posted Sep 6, 2017, 10:47 AM by Lynn Erickson

As summer begins to wind down and the first week of school approaches, we often find ourselves losing sleep thinking about all of the things we need to do to get organized. Before that first week approaches, here are 18 steps to organize yourself with technology:

  • Declutter your inbox: Delete any emails you don’t need from previous years, organize the emails you want to keep, and create folders for new emails you will receive.

  • Organize your contacts: Create a 2017–18 contacts folder in your email—as you get parent email addresses, be sure to add them to this new folder.

  • Store important files: Back up files to online storage areas, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, and access your files from any device.

  • Keep a digital to-do list: Use sites such as Google Keep to make organizational to-do checklists. These lists can be accessed from any device.

  • Connect with parents: Use websites such as Remind or ClassTag for pushing out class information to parents all at once. Begin by creating a letter inviting parents to join—it’s simple to use, and parents can sign up on their own.

  • Organize your classroom library online: Start with a list of titles and authors—during the school year, students can create online video book reviews of your classroom library for others to view.

  • Create an easy numbering system: Assign numbers to students for usernames for the technology websites you will be using in your classroom. Be sure to keep a list of all of the students’ names and numbers in case anyone forgets!

  • Connect with fellow educators: Join or visit an online educator community so you are prepped and ready to easily download or update lessons for the year ahead.

  • Update your Google Classroom: Archive all of your Google Classroom pages and begin organizing your new class(es). Invite students into your class if you already have class lists.

  • Get funding: Already have a great idea for a project you want to be funded? Use sites like to create a project that might be funded right away.

  • Keep an online calendar: Sites such as Google Calendar allow you to sync your calendar to your phone—so you’re always aware of upcoming meetings, open houses, parent teacher conferences, and other important dates.

  • Get inspired: Use Pinterest for classroom setup ideas and take pictures of your classroom organizational ideas. That way, you’ll have them for next summer when you are setting up your classroom again!

  • Welcome your students: Get your class website ready to go and insert a video welcome message from you. Send the link to parents and students to ease the anxiety students might have about the first day back to school.

  • Offer support: Begin creating a list of educational websites to offer parents when they need support for their child. Add this to your website or Google Doc to easily share with parents.

  • Create “technology coach” badges: As the school year starts, choose 2–3 tech-savvy students to be your technology coaches and help other students in the class.

  • Set limits: Create technology rules for the classroom, or begin with a few and have students create the rest.

  • Go fully digital: Begin digitizing all of your lesson plans, project ideas, templates, and other tools that you will use for the school year. Create organized folders with the school year and topic ideas.

  • Take advantage of deals: Check out the many stores that offer discounted school supplies to teachers for back to school. Dollar General, Staples, Walmart, and Michaels are some that offer discounts and special teacher days.

How to Get Your Professional and Personal Resources Organized for Summer and Beyond

posted Sep 6, 2017, 10:46 AM by Lynn Erickson

Are you swamped throughout the school year? Do you get resources delivered to you, but just don’t have the time to look at them? How many sites have you bookmarked during the school day, never to go back to?

As our school year winds down, summer is usually the time we can take a break and relax. It is also the perfect time to catch up with some resources we found over the school year and just didn’t have a spare moment to peruse.

Here are some tools and resources to organize these educational finds we have stumbled across:

Google Keep: Users can capture text, add images, generate ideas, and create to-do lists that can be shared with others. It is similar to iPhone Notes, except it has quite a few more options, like syncing across all devices, adding an auto-formatted title, and allowing for collaboration. With Google Keep, you can bookmark the interesting links that you find throughout the school year—images can also be added that match your link. As you are looking through your website resources, it might prompt an idea for a project. Add a checklist of ideas that correspond to the website you found and your project idea. Color-coded notes can help keep you organized as well. Use the drawing tool to mark up images, draw a note, or add additional information instead of typing. All of your notes and ideas can contain reminders that will also sync to your Google Calendar.

Pinterest: Use Pinterest to save articles, visual content, or other useful pieces of information you find on the Internet. You can easily create a “board” of different educational topics and pin articles, visual content, or websites that you want to go back to. When you “pin” on the platform, you are adding a visual image to your board. When you “repin” content, you are adding a pin that someone else created to your board. Installing a “Pin It” button will allow you to pin any website you come across to your board, and boards can be organized in any format that works for you. Some organization ideas for your boards could be topics such as educational books, lesson plans, technology tools, Google Apps for Education, educational infographics, and inspiration.

Livebinders: Compared to a digital binder, Livebinders is a tool that allows for the integration of a variety of online resources in one location. Organization of a Livebinder includes tabs that can be organized by topic, subject area, professional development idea, or whatever you like. When a link is added to the Livebinder, it shows up live within the binder. Binders can be private or public, and they can be shared with others for collaboration efforts. Additionally, Livebinders can be embedded into a blog or website. Livebinders can be used with students as well, such as providing students with a flipped classroom approach of video materials that they can use from home and in the classroom, student portfolio work, project resources, or for reviewing videos of math or science materials.

Diigo: Diigo can be used as a bookmarking tool to organize the links that you want to save—websites can be categorized by titles, notes, keyword tags, lists, or groups. With the Diigo extension, you can highlight, annotate, and leave virtual sticky notes on web pages and PDFs. Diigo can also be used as a professional learning community (PLC), where you can join groups of like-minded educators to share resources and ideas. Some groups to consider joining are Diigo in Education, EdTech Bookmarks, and Sites for Education.

Symbaloo: Use Symbaloo as a visual bookmarking tool—with an account, you can access all of your bookmarks from any device, and can also share these resources with others. One of the best aspects of Symbaloo is the embed feature, which allows you to embed your Symbaloo pages on your own blog or website. Not only can you use Symbaloo for your own professional resources, you can set up webmixes (categories) for your students by topics or subject areas you teach. You can even use Symbaloo as a way to organize student portfolios. What’s more, you can embed content into your Symbaloo webmix, add widgets, search modules, and newsfeeds as well.


For those of you who want to do more professional development for the summer aside from the resources you gathered throughout the school year, consider the following free or low-cost ideas:


  1. Join an online discussion forum: Communities such as edWeb have a variety of groups that provide webinars you can watch in real time, or go back and review the archived versions. Other communities to consider are Education WeekTeaching ChannelEducational World, and Google for Education.

  2. Listen to various Ted Talks: These inspirational and informational talks about education and educational topics are well worth taking the time to listen to.

  3. Attend a free teacher-led Edcamp: If you have never attended an Edcamp, take the time to attend one in your area. Hosted at a school or organization, participants are greeted with a board of times and locations for the day upon arrival. Potential topics are selected by participants who either want to lead a conversation or learn more about a particular topic. Once the board is established, participants find sessions that meet their needs.

  4. Join a Twitter chat: Chats are set up at various days and times throughout the week, and are offered by educators on a variety of topics. The complete list of topics and times are updated on a regular basis.

  5. Go on your own field trip: Now that you have the time in the summer, experience your own field trip to a museum, national park, or other place that interests you. Check your local library for discount passes to museums, zoos, and other attractions in your area. Additionally if you are a NEA member, discounts are offered to many attractions you might be visiting.

10 Training Tips for a Successful Technology Integration

posted Sep 6, 2017, 10:45 AM by Lynn Erickson

We know what it’s like to attend a one-day professional development event and never have any follow-up training. It is just as frustrating to listen to a trainer and not be able to practice what you learned because the equipment is not readily available. Additionally, many of us have struggled through a training never being able to touch a piece of technology equipment.

While it is important to consider that professional development opportunities are essential to better train educators in the effective use of instructional technology, it is equally important to understand that professional development is ongoing and not a one-time event.

Here are some tips for a successful professional development plan:

  1. Conduct a Needs Assessment: Survey staff and gather feedback on the types and levels of technology skills that they have. Adult learners have a very diverse set of skills and needs, so be sure to choose several different areas and craft pre-needs assessments for particular topics. Depending on the tools for training, there will likely be both novice and advanced users. Adjust needs knowing you will have varied skill levels of learners.

  2. Have a Plan: Technology integration training should be properly planned. Planning considerations should involve varied levels of skills, timelines, classroom support, and customization based on the results of the needs assessment. Adjust and modify the plan as needed, and gather information from learners throughout the process to ensure all needs are being met.

  3. Include Administration: In order for effective professional development to occur, all members must be on board. When administration participates in professional development and plays an active role, a meaningful change in pedagogy will occur. Award small successes and make notice of the progress and change that has happened as a result of the professional development.

  4. Include Coaching and Mentoring: 2011 study conducted by the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) demonstrated that teachers who received coaching implemented new instructional methods at a rate of 85 percent, while only 15 percent of teachers without coaching support implemented new methods. Allow time for teachers to work with each other, plan for projects, and observe classroom events. Make use of technology coaches and instructional technology specialists to ensure they have time to work with teachers directly in the classroom.

  5. Make Sure the Technology Is Readily Available: The technology that the teachers will be using should be readily available before training even occurs. Teachers should have immediate access to the tools and resources they need to get started right away. Successful implementation will only occur if the technology is available once training has occurred.

  6. Provide Access to Resources for Continued Support: Have a place for teachers to refer to that will supply them with content-specific assistance, additional learning tools, and resources of best practices with the technology. These resources might be blogs, training videos, step-by-step training manuals, or videos of best practices in the classroom. Make these resources readily available and update them regularly. Ask for input from teachers to allow for a shared repository.

  7. Make Use of the Technology During Training: Use and train with the technology the teachers will be learning. Make sure there is enough equipment for each teacher to train with—hands-on practice should be an essential part of the training. Training should focus on the integration of the technology, not the technology itself.

  8. Focus on the Curriculum, Not the Technology: Technology should be used as a teaching and learning tool tied to curricular goals and assessment—instructional objectives should be first and foremost. What is it that you want students to know and be able to do? In what ways do you want to improve student collaboration and discussion? Select appropriate technologies to support these objectives and questions you have. How will the technology and classroom tools be used to do this? What technologies can support your instructional objectives?

  9. Provide Ongoing Support: Elicit feedback from teachers on any additional support they need for effective classroom use. Instructional coaches should be an integral part of providing ongoing support. Additionally, professional development should progress from introductory to more advanced topics as teachers become more comfortable with the support systems they have in place.

  10. Form Professional Learning Communities: Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, involve reflecting on your instructional practice, the effects that instruction has on students, and implementation of new insights gained from the PLC meeting. The PLC group should be centered on a common goal. An atmosphere of trust is essential for effective communication, and you should allow for time throughout the year to meet and plan accordingly. Use technology solutions that enable electronic communities for communication both inside and outside of school.

Top Picks for Educational Resources for the 21st Century Classroom- Lynn Erickson

posted Apr 19, 2017, 4:52 PM by Lynn Erickson

It’s not always easy keeping up with all the online tools, websites, blogs, and classroom resources that are available to us as educators. We often spend time searching online for the best fit for our classroom needs—sometimes not getting the results we anticipated. Here is a list of highly recommended educational resources to support teaching and learning:

  1. edWeb: This free online community for professional educators offers networking, resource sharing, collaboration, and professional development webinars. Simply create an account, and you’ll be able to browse through the list of various education communities. edWeb hosts professional learning communities that offer free webinars where you can earn CE certificates. Some of their recently established PLC include: Be a Literacy Hero in the K-5 ClassroomInsideK12: Cultivating a Community of Informed Educators; and Differentiating Instruction with Educational Technology, to name a few.

  2. Padlet: This virtual board of “sticky notes” can be edited, moved around, and shared with others. Settings for Padlet allow for privacy and moderation of posts, which makes it easy to use with students. Uses in the classroom vary from bell ringer activities and collaborative note taking to exit tickets and classroom resources/videos—all in one place. Administrators can use it with teachers for professional development planning of resources, school-wide planning, and gathering of responses or ideas for faculty and department meetings.

  3. Sutori (formerly Hstry): Teachers and students can create or explore interactive timelines on this site. Users can create their own timeline that includes text, images, video, audio, and quizzes. Students can also comment and ask questions directly on the timeline itself.

  4. Thinglink: Thinglink allows users to make images come alive with interactive media. Click an area on an image to add text, a link to a website, or an embed code for video. Upload, tag, share, and manage your interactive images across different platforms. Students can have an individual account without requiring an email, and log in with their Google Apps for Education accounts. What’s more, Thinglink also has tablet and mobile functionality.

  5. TED-Ed (Lessons Worth Sharing): Users can view existing lessons or build their own lessons around any TED-Ed Original, TED Talk, or YouTube video.

  6. Mimio Educator Blog: This blog has contributors that include teachers, principals, technologists, and EdTech innovators. You get informative posts ranging from current industry info and trends to lesson tips and pedagogy. It’s a great mix of information to keep you up to date and informed.

  7. Remind: An easy way to communicate with parents about classroom events, reminders of student project due dates, and school happenings. Messages sent through the service come to parents via text message or the Remind app. Some features include the ability to send file attachments, read receipts, schedule an announcement ahead of time, and add co-teachers to your class to manage announcements and settings.

  8. Newseum Front Pages: Newseum—through a special agreement with more than 2,000 newspapers worldwide—displays various front pages on their website every day. Take a particular topic or event and investigate the different ways each country covers the story. You can also cover a real time event to see how the news updates change over time.

  9. Big History Project: Co-created by teachers, students, and curriculum experts, BHP was inspired by the work of David Christian and is supported by Bill Gates. This free online history course contains over 70 standards-aligned lesson plans, dozens of videos, and texts accessible in multiple reading levels. Check out their various course plans that include year-long, world history, and semester courses. To assist the BHP teacher, the site offers free online professional development, a teacher community, and free essay scoring.

  10. Common Lit: This site contains free literacy resources, progress tracking tools, and hundreds of fiction and non-fiction reading passages for grades 5–12. You can assign text-dependent questions to hold students accountable for high-level reading and writing, as well as analyze student performance and compare class reports on key reading and writing skills.

  11. Formative: Create an assignment, assign to students, receive live results, and give feedback on any device. It goes beyond multiple-choice as students can type, show their work with drawings, or submit images.

  12. My Simple Show: Create your own explainer videos that can be used for training staff, summarizing topics for students, and as part of a flipped classroom approach.

  13. EdTech RoundUp: This highly informative educational blog provides a roundup of the latest educational technology news as well as a collection of reviews, lesson plans, suggested applications, and professional development ideas.

  14. Photos For Class: An image search website of safe images to use for the classroom and educational projects. With filters and the use of Flickr Safe Search, all images are appropriate for school settings and have Creative Commons licensing. Downloaded images automatically cite the author and the image license terms.

  15. Epic!: Epic! For Educators is a subscription eBook service for elementary readers. Educator accounts are free for elementary teachers and library media specialists in the U.S. and Canada, with thousands of books available from major publishers. Epic! is full of features like read-aloud, profiles with personalized recommendations based on reading level and interests, an ad-free environment, and reading on any device. Free educator accounts also include up to 36 associated student profiles for free.

  16. Digital Compass: Common Sense Media’s Digital Compass addresses digital citizenship in a blended-learning environment. Designed for grades 6–9, Digital Compass leads students through the understanding of digital citizenship with animated adventures and interactive experiences. It allows students to explore the consequences of online behavior while staying safe. For younger grades, Digital Passport is available.

  17. MimioConnect: This online educator community has an extensive library of lesson plans for interactive whiteboards and allows members to share their own favorites with others. It also hosts groups and forums on lessons and important issues, or you can start your own group. In addition, MimioConnect has tech experts you can post your questions to for insight and feedback.

6 Underground Apps Students Hide From Schools

posted Apr 19, 2017, 4:47 PM by Lynn Erickson

Parents be aware as well.  Informative article from eSchool News:

Stem From the Start- PreK-Grade 2

posted Mar 29, 2017, 7:39 AM by Lynn Erickson

Being in a Quizzical State of Mind

posted Mar 17, 2017, 10:25 AM by Lynn Erickson

Life As an Educator in a Social Media World

posted Mar 17, 2017, 10:12 AM by Lynn Erickson

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