Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#EdTech specialist - can you please help?

The purpose of this post is to ask for help and advice from #EdTech specialist who are familiar with the new MacBook Air. I was fortunate to be the recipient of a $60,000 grant from Discover's Pathway to Financial Success, and with my Grant dollars I purchased a full computer lab. Click here if you are interested in learning more about the Grant, and how else I have allocated the money.

Our technology specialist has already ordered 30 MacBook Pro's (plus one for me), and all of the support equipment. Our school is not a 1:1 school, and many of the kids have no experience working with a laptop computer. Furthermore, the kids have little to no experience turning in paperless work, or using online programs to take notes.

The primary purpose for the technology is to support my students in my stand-alone personal finance course for our special education students. I will have kids from all of my classes using the computers, so they are going to benefit as well.

I have a SMART board in my classroom that has never worked, but is going to be fixed. I would like to integrate my SMART board into my lessons, student notes, and classroom activities.

To be clear, I do not want to overwhelm the students. My goal is to use technology to enhance learning opportunities. I do not want to overwhelm them with technology and create barriers to learning.

My short term goals and questions
  • I immediately want to go paperless with everything except for tests. This means how I share notes, assignments, and projects. I have been told that Microsoft's OneNote is an excellent program for note-sharing.
    • Does One-Note work well with Mac's?
    • Is there any cost for One-Note beyond the initial purchase of the program?
    • What is the third-party intermediary that allows for sharing notes, and is there a cost?
    • Are there any other note-sharing programs that you feel may be better?
    • We have an internal dropbox at the school. Would this be the best way for the students to turn in their assignments? Would DropBox be better because it has an app?
  • I want to ensure students are not sidetracked with off-site/off-topic internet sites. 
    • What kind of spyware do you recommend I use?
    • Beyond engaging lessons, do you have any specific classroom management techniques you feel are effective?
  • I want to make sure the computers are not damaged or stolen.
    • Any advice?
My long term goals and questions
  • I want my students to leave our school and enter a college or a work setting computer literate. I don't know how else to explain my end goal other than sharing two visions... 
    • I want see my students in a college sitting next to kids who attended elite private schools with 1:1 programs, and be able to outperform them. 
      • Any specific advice, programs, fluencies, that I should integrate into my coursework?
    • I want my non-college bound students and/or special education students to walk into an office setting and have enough technology fluency to thrive in an everyday office setting.
      • Any specific advice, programs, fluencies, that I should integrate into my coursework?
  • I do not want to ever use paper again - - ever.
    • Do you know of any assessment programs that would allow me to upload my assessments, for my students to take the assessments, and to turn them in? Note - my tests are typically multiple choice and extended response. 
    • Do you know of any programs that will auto-grade multiple choice and/or written response questions?
  • I want my students to leave every class with an e-portfolio, something they can show future employers or college admissions. 
    • Any suggested e-portolio programs and/or resources? Preferably free.
Any advice you can provide me in response to this post is greatly appreciated.


  1. Brian, my name is Justin and I teach in a 1:1 Macbook school. As a teacher, I have a Macbook Pro, and I love it. I have been paperless for 2 years now. I would be happy to help. Here's what I want to know more about...

    1. Do you have a course management system you use? If not, I highly recommend Schoology. I use it and love it. I have heard Edmodo is great too. Both are free.

    2. For sharing notes, I would use Google docs. This is much more fluid across platform and devices. I also find it easier to use.

    3. Where possible, do not use Spyware, unless your AUP requires it. Trust students and use misuse as teachable moments about digital ethics.

    4. I would assume computers will stay in a locked cabinet in the classroom. Give each computer a number then assign each kid a number... every kid is accountable for just one laptop. This will make tracking damage and misuse easier.

    5. Schoology will allow you to post all types of assessments. Use this for your testing.

    6. I have heard Livebinder is great for digital portfolios. I still use Google docs, though. Again, for its cross-platform uses and ubiquity. However, check out Livebinder, dropbox, and others.

    Feel free to hound me for more questions. I'd love to help. Find me on Twitter (@MrStaubSTEM) or at my blog ( for more ideas and questions.

    Good luck.

    1. Thank you very much! This is greatly appreciated.

      Unfortunately, GoogleDocs is blocked. However, your advice is very helpful.

    2. I have also just followed you on Twitter - - thanks again.

  2. I would second the recommendation to use Google Docs for all your word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation needs. Cloud-based apps will prevent any compatibility issues and will allow your students to access their work from anywhere. I would also recommend using Evernote instead of OneNote. OneNote is not well-supported on Macs, and Evernote is a generally better platform anyway in my opinion. It too is web-based, so your students can access their work from anywhere and take it with them after your class. Dropbox is great for digital submission, but Google Drive now works just as well if you have shared folders and is, in some ways, easier. Evernote has shared notebook functionality as well, though there are some limitations to it in the free version.
    A useful assessment and auto-grading tool is Socrative. It too is web-based.

    I would also be happy too speak further via Twitter @EdTechBSt or on my blog

    Best of luck

    1. Thank you very much! This is valuable information. I have also just followed you on Twitter.

    2. No problem. One other thing re: classroom management: computers are meant to be played with, I think. Any management software will also limit the computer's power as a learning tool. I try to keep that in mind when I plan lessons; encourage play!

    3. I also agree with using Evernote as an alternative. There are great ideas and resources on how to use Evernote in the classroom. Here's one:
      Twitter @nadjib

  3. Started writing as other comments were rolling in...How do you GoogleDocs is blocked? Google Apps you mean? How many students will be using this lab and what age group? If they're at a manageable number and over 13, you may consider having them create personal Gmail accounts to take advantage of Google Drive.

    For going paperless as a short term goal, Google Apps (Drive) is the way to go. It is a solution to all your concerns there: Sharing files, taking notes, collaboration, and works great with Mac's.

    Using Google Drive is also super helpful for working with assessments. Here's a quick video on how to use Google Forms to create quizzes and gather results:

    1. They just unblocked google applications! I may be able to use this! Thank you very much.

  4. I agree; We are a Google Apps in Education school and the students love it; access is 24/7 whenever and where-ever one is connected! We have two domains: one for staff and one for students because we are a Middle School; the student domain is private. Students learn all the skills necessary to be computer literate in docs, spreadsheet, presentation, websites, etc. Collaboration is easy. GAFE is free. You can start with a class portfolio site and then move to individual portfolio websites with Google Sites. Or students can use blogger for portfolios. See the work of Helen Barrett for portfolios. I create sites for major projects and students access them from our focus site. We do use Teacher Dashboard by Hapara, but I think with Google Drive management would be easier. Collaboration, sharing, being paperless, learning computer skills, and digital citizenship is so easy in Google Apps. Here are some links:

    We also use Engrade, third party grading program with CCSS standards that works with Google Apps. Engrade includes wikis, quizes, flashcards.

    I don't use this grading program, but many Apps schools do:

    Edmodo is also free: students turn in assignments by sharing the links to their blogs or Google Apps.

    I'm not sure what note-sharing you want, but Google Apps documents include commenting and chat to discuss the document. A document could be used to share notes. If I have a template I want student to use, I create a public document to VIEW, link to it from our focus site, and students make a copy and rename it to use for their own work.

    Otherwise, I would also use Evernote.

    Our Language Arts focus site:

    Hope this helps. Lucky You!

    1. What a terrific and helpful response - thank you!

  5. I agree with all the suggestions above.

    Evernote for notes
    Google Docs for docs, spreadsheets, presentations. . .

    I run a mac based tech class at my middle school and we have looked at Netop Vision for classroom management. It allows the teacher to see what is on the students screens and the paid version allows you to disable student screens while you need their attention, or send your screen to their screens so you can model for them. We played with the demo and liked it a lot. We haven't decided if we are going to get the paid version.

  6. Brian,

    You're asking some great questions here and it's obvious that your students are lucky to have you. The problem is that the issues are too complex to address in a comment on your blog.

    I am the Educational Technology Director at the Scheck Hillel Community School, a PK-12 private school in North Miami Beach and I'd be happy to chat with you via Skype to discuss your situation. We can talk over your options, which include simply adopting an LMS or something more complex, up to and including bringing me to Ohio to consult. (You can learn more about me and reach me via

    1. I may take you up on this offer - - a million thanks!

  7. Hi Brian,

    We're a 1:1 MacBook Air school (public, suburban, outside of Boston). I'll give the quick version here and you can be in touch if you want to continue the conversation.

    1. I'm anti GoogleDocs except for directly collaborative work; the interface is too clunky for me.

    2. I'm in full agreement about SpyWare. Don't demonize the device. If they're going to be distracted, they won't need a computer to be distracted. We do have LanSchool, but I use it's non-SpyWare features (like sharing student screens with other student computers) much more than the spying feature.

    3. I'm pro Dropbox (the app / site), and if you're the first to get to your students you'll get all sorts of free space on Dropbox by using the invite feature (I'm up to almost 19 gigs) for distribution of notes and, to a lesser extent, collection of assignments.

    4. We use ItsLearning for our CMS; they're trying to make inroads into the US, so I understand they're offering themselves for free for the first year at least.

    5. I'm paperless including all assessments (gave my first two full period tests this week).

    6. I've used all sorts of assessment tools to grade multiple choice: Promethean's ActivExpression, Socrative, eClicker, ItsLearning, Engrade (we use them as the gradebook (love it) but they have a quiz feature), Moodle. For open-ended assignments, students either upload them to ItsLearning or email me directly and I use Word's Track Changes feature.

    7. Haven't done much with portfolios but, to echo what I said above, simple solutions are better. I'm hoping to pilot EduBlog and use it as a portfolio tool and I've used Weebly (free websites) in the past for students to make portfolio-type things.

    8. I would also echo Evernote as a note-taking tool, though a lot of my students are liking the Notebook feature in Word.

    Be in touch if you have any questions or want to continue the conversation:, and a lot of what I've said here is in expanded form on my blog:

    1. Your detailed response means a lot to me. Thank you a million for this!

  8. Hi Brian, I teach in a computer lab with all desktop iMacs. The key to doing what you would like here is to get a good LMS - Learning Management System. BlackBoard is a very popular one at the College level (because it has to be paid for). You might want to look into a free one called Moodle. We have Moodle here at my high school and I operate in the exact way that you say you want to here in your post. My class is paperless, all files, links, etc are digital. All tests are done on the computer as well, right inside Moodle. I will be at the Jumpstart Chicago conference if you wanted to meet up and see what Moodle looks like. My email is, let me know.

    1. Thank you very, very much. I am out the door heading to Chicago and will respond in detail in the next few days.

  9. AirSchoolTv - Experience based interactive educational programs, developing emotional intelligence, social interaction and real life skills. World`s First COLEARNING SPACE. Creating the school of the future based on technology, communication and collaboration.