Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hour of Code and Green Valley

Last Friday, Green Valley Elementary celebrated the Hour of Code in style! The high-school students from the Computer Engineering Academy at Hoover City Schools came and went to each grade level to help the students complete the Hour of Code Star Wars module. The school also gathered for an assembly complete with videos explaining what Hour of Code is created by Mr. Elliott and his fifth grade students (see video below). There were special visitors including Darth Vader and a fun coding dance led by Mr. Moore, the music teacher. The students were treated to a dance at the end by the Hoover High School Buccanetts and surprise guests...their teachers....who joined the Buccanetts in a dance. The day was so much fun and the students really enjoyed getting to meet the high school students.

Mr. Elliott's Students explain what coding is

"Eye" See You!

5th grade students at Brock's Gap collaborate together as they explore how the human eye works. As I walk into Dr. Montgomery's class, students are spread out all over the classroom engaged in animated discussions as they contemplate how our eyes work. What a wonderful sight to see!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Virtual Program Offerings 2016-2017

Beginning the 2016-2017 school year, Hoover City Schools will offer 9th-12th students the option to graduate by completing courses in a full-time virtual or part-time blended program. Currently, both high schools offer a variety of virtual courses which allow for student flexibility and individualization. The ENGAGE Virtual School will further those offerings by allowing students to participate in a full-time high school program online.

If you are interested in your student participating in the full or part-time program, please complete the following survey. STUDENT SURVEY ENGAGE Virtual School

More information regarding the ENGAGE Virtual School can be found at Additional information will be added as we continue to build the program based on your feedback and interest. The parents of interested students will be contacted regarding an upcoming informational meeting.

For questions or comments, contact us at

Vote for Jill Westerlund's CS Class

Jill Westerlund at Hoover HS submitted a photo for the CS10k Photo Challenge (for CS Ed Week) that has been selected as a finalist!

Please vote on the pic at this link to help her class win a CS10K Photo Challenge grand prize.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Vicki Clark is double checking Semester Grades in Access

With all the talk about blended and virtual school it is good to remember that we have been doing virtual classes successfully for years.  The state Access Virtual Learning Platform has been around for over a decade. This year is like any other for Hoover High students using Access.  They take courses that Hoover High either does not offer or courses that are not scheduled at times that meet their needs. The classes include everything from core classes to languages. Vickie Clark is the facilitator for the Access program at Hoover High School and the contact between our students and teachers all over the state. Vicki also is usually the contact person for students with chromebook issues and keeps an eye on all of her students and their progress. 

Fighting IS Encouraged in Schools!

At Berry Middle School, Ms. Mangina's 8th grade computer science students wrapped up their Lego Robotics unit with a good old fashioned "Battle Bots" tournament where robots fought to the death. Okay, not really to the death but they did have to do battle. Students worked in teams to design robots, using Lego EV3 kits, with this challenge: Keep your robot inside the square and push the other robot out. Think sumo wrestling...but with robots. This may sound simple, but it took some very hard work & creativity on the part of the builders and programmers. The battles took place inside a big square outlined by blue tape. The programmers had to program the bot to use its color sensor to see this blue tape, react accordingly and keep it from going out of the battle square. That comprised their defensive effort. Next, they had to program their bot to also attack, which meant finding the other bot and pushing it out of the square. Some used the ultrasonic sensor to locate the other bot and move toward it while others applied a more random program of exploring the square until coming in contact with the other bot or the boundary. One group added spinning weapons to their bots while others relied on brute force. All in all, it proved to be a great challenge for the kids and it was extremely fun to watch.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2 Whiteboarding Options for the Touchscreen Chromebooks

Here are 2 great options for tapping into the power of the touch screen Chromebooks and giving your students the opportunity to create shareable clips explaining their thinking & showing their work.

Pixiclip-allows students to quickly record on a "white board" while adding voice narration to what's happening. The recordings can be up to 5 mins and they are shareable via a link. Students don't have to login or create any type of account. They simply go to the site and start working. Once finished, they "Publish and Share" and it will take them to the finished product. They copy the link for that page and share with whoever they need to. tudents need to be sure an not give personal info in their creationHere's my example.

Educreations-allows students to record on a "white board" with voice narration, just as Pixiclip does, but with a few more options. The pages in Educreations are scrollable AND you can add multiple pages to a recording. It's more robust than Pixiclip...but it does require a sign up. Click here for an example. YOU have to create a teacher account and then students join your class with a code. When students join, they are asked for first/last name and to create a unique username. I would recommend first name and last initial. In the space for email address OR username, they need to just user their student id# as their username and NOT PUT THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS!  For the password, they will need to use their student password. This will put them in your class and give them access to creating their own lessons. You will also have access to their creations under your class roster. It would be smart to create a class for EACH of your actual classes in order to keep everything organized.

Students always need to practice good digital citizenship when publishing anything for a larger audience AND they must not give out personal info in their narrations. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Exploring Sea Turtles Through Project Based Learning

Last Thursday and Friday, third graders at Deer Valley Elementary culminated their sea turtle immersion PBL with a museum open to family and special guests. The museum showcased student learning through art, writing, and technology. Parents journeyed down the hall filled with ocean decorations. Visitors used QR readers on their phones, viewing technology projects ranging from student created audio recordings to websites. At each end of the hall, students shared the importance of protecting the turtles. By the end of the showcase, they received $800 in donations. This money will be used to protect three shorelines and a nest. What a difference these students have made!

The third grade team met early in the school year to plan their first Project Based Learning experience for their students. During the planning stage, the team discovered they could cover 134 standards immersing their students in sea turtle research. The teachers arranged a virtual field trip through the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and invited a marine biology student to present.

To learn more about this project, be sure to check out the project website below.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

AFTER SCHOOL App and Other Apps That Need Our Attention!

After School APP Icon

The "AFTER SCHOOL" App, an app created specifically for high school students, is certainly one that needs to be on the radar of parents with middle/high school students. It was created for the purpose of giving students access to a community of their school peers free of the judgmental, critical eye of adults where students can anonymously share the things they are dealing with in their lives. But despite it's creators' meaningful intent, it has become a place where students can openly bully, harass, gossip and even make threats while having little to no accountability for their actions. The site is intentionally set up so adults can't see what is being shared in the school communities. When setting up the app, it relies on their verification system that looks at a user's Facebook account to verify their student-status at a specific school. If this can't be verified through the app, then you can't access the school community, leaving parents on the outside with no way of looking in...unless a student openly shares their use of this app with them. And most of the time, parents are the last ones to know. This app has been used to bully, harass and even make threats that have led to arrests, as can be seen here. Simply take a look at the App's page in the App Store and you will see that it says you must be 17+ to download.

Brighten APP Icon
Brighten, another anonymous app with upstanding intentions, is also one to on the lookout for because of its growing popularity. It is meant to give users the ability to compliment others anonymously, hence the name "Brighten." But of course, because there is no accountability for users and posts are made anonymously, unfortunately some are using it to harass, bully and threaten. It's suggested age is 12+.

In a growing digital space where new Apps are birthed every few minutes, it's extremely difficult for even the savviest of users to keep up with what's out there. So what about parents of teens and tweens? How are we supposed to keep up? Parents today are facing the challenge of raising the most highly targeted, marketed-to generation ever, a generation that is exposed to more information and can access just about ANYTHING from the device in the palm of their hand. That's a sobering reality and it's something we (all of us-parents, teachers, kids, admins, everyone) need to be discussing frequently if we want to keep up with what's being targeted at our kids, what they are doing with it and how it's affecting them.

Some Tips for Parents of Tweens and Teens

  • Check their devices regularly and make your expectations and values clear regarding their digital lives.
  • Set up Family Sharing on iOS devices so you can know exactly which apps they are using.
  • Maintain current lists of all of their usernames/passwords for the social media sites where they actively post.
  • Talk with your kids regularly about these topics and let them know you are there to help them navigate these dangerous waters.
  • Visit Common Sense Media and subscribe to their parent e-newsletter for app descriptions, ratings, suggestions, etc. Here's CSM's review of After School
  • Talk with other parents frequently and don't be afraid to ask questions. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spain Park Teachers BREAK OUT!

Teachers at Spain Park High came together to try a new way of learning, collaborating and problem solving. A group of teachers from a variety of subject areas showed up Wednesday morning to hear that they had 45 minutes to find the antidote to a deadly virus that would be released within the hour. Would they be able to save the world? The game is from Breakout EDU, a new concept in Educational learning. Many have played breakout games across the country and enjoyed the thrill of working against the clock to solve problems with a team. Collaboration, team building, and problem solving are exactly what we need to prepare students so the idea is a great match for education. Ready-made games are available or teachers and students can use templates to create their own standards-based problems to solve. Teachers worked as a team piecing together clues to find the answers and the antidote. With six minutes to spare, they solved the last clue, opened the lock and saved the world! For more information on trying Breakout EDU with your class, see this link.  Kits can be purchased from the site or you can buy what you need on Amazon or other sites that carry the products used in the game.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

IVECA Helps Students Make Global Connections

Five Hoover High teachers and their classes have been collaborating and corresponding electronically with classes in South Korea and Colombia and Brazil.  The cultural and education exchange program through IVECA is in its second year at Hoover High School.  Ms. Jill Thomas, Ms. Lindy Bearden, Ms. Katherine Morris, Ms .Lesa Gibson , Ms. Laine Lamborne and their classes are all getting ready to meet their counterparts through live webinars in the next few weeks.  Ms. Bearden’s class is collaborating with a class in Columbia, Mrs.Gibson’s students are working with a class in South Korea and a class in Brazil and the other classes are all working with different classes and teachers in South Korea.  The classes have obvious curriculum goals and collaborative lessons.  For example,some classes compare and contrast short stories from each of their countries. However, most teachers said that the connections and cultural knowledge the students gained were just as important as what they learned about their academic class. There is also a talent portion of each live class and the students perform dances, sing, play musical instruments and demonstrate how to make popular food and drink items.   We in technology are glad to have the opportunity to help with the technical side of this program and we get to see firsthand how much student benefit from their global connections.

Going Ozobot in Kindergarten

Mrs. Miles Kindergarten class at South Shades Crest Elementary had so much fun #coding with the #Ozobots .   There is no end to possibilities when it comes to the great work at hand.  Great Job everyone!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The facts about student data privacy in Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks

Our goal is to ensure teachers and students everywhere have access to powerful, affordable and easy-to-use tools for teaching, learning and working together. We have always been firmly committed to keeping student information private and secure. 

On December 1st, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published a complaint regarding Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and other products and services especially Chrome Sync. While we appreciate the EFF’s focus on student data privacy, we are confident that our tools comply with both the law and our promises, including the Student Privacy Pledge, which we signed earlier this year. The co-authors of the Student Privacy Pledge, The Future of Privacy Forum and The Software and Information Industry Association have both criticized EFF's interpretation of the Pledge and their complaint. 

I want to reiterate some important facts about how our products work, how we keep students’ data private and secure, and our commitment to schools, more broadly. 

Google Apps for Education Core Services 
The GAFE Core Services -- Gmail, Calendar, Classroom, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Contacts, Groups, Vault and Hangouts -- are the heart of Google’s educational offering to schools. Students’ personal data in these Core Services is only used to provide the services themselves, so students can do things like communicate using email and collaborate on assignments using Google Docs. There are no ads in these Core Services, and student data in these services is not used for advertising purposes. 

Chrome Sync 
Chrome Sync enables Google Account holders to log into any Chromebook or Chrome browser and find all their apps, extensions, bookmarks, and frequently visited web pages. For students, this means that they can get to work, right away. That's one of the reasons Chromebooks have become so popular in classrooms, especially for schools that can't afford a device for every child. With Chromebooks and Chrome Sync, students can have a personalized experience on any device they share with their classmates. 

Personally-identifiable Chrome Sync data in GAFE accounts is only used to power features in Chrome for that person, for example allowing students to access their own browsing data and settings, securely, across devices. In addition, our systems compile data aggregated from millions of users of Chrome Sync and, after completely removing information about individual users, we use this data to holistically improve the services we provide. For example if data shows that millions of people are visiting a webpage that is broken, that site would be moved lower in the search results. This is not connected to any specific person nor is it used to analyze student behaviors. If they choose to, educators, students and administrators can disable Chrome Sync or choose what information to sync in settings whenever they choose. GAFE users’ Chrome Sync data is not used to target ads to individual students. 

Additional services
Schools can control whether students or teachers can use additional Google consumer services -- like YouTube, Maps, and Blogger -- with their GAFE accounts. We are committed to ensuring that K-12 student personal information is not used to target ads in these services, and in some cases we show no ads at all. In Google Search, for example, we show no ads when students are logged in. 

We build products that help teachers teach and help students learn. We are constantly working to improve our products and we take all feedback from customers and consumer protection groups seriously. You can learn more and stay updated on our commitment at

When I Grow Up I Want to Be...

Students spend time cruising for a career with their grade level counselor, Mrs. Coleman. Using their Chromebooks, students take the time to explore different careers. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Google Keep-a Powerful Little Note-Taking Tool

Google Keep is a really powerful note-taking platform with some "note-worthy" features that certainly make it worth checking out. Whether you're a teacher, student or just someone looking for a way to keep up with all those ideas & information you encounter throughout your day, Keep offers some powerful "noting"options in a very simple, user-friendly package that takes only moments to learn and navigate.

And just like most of the Google tools, Keep is web-based, accessible from a computer, has a full-functioning app for both iOS/Android AND allows for users to easily share & collaborate on notes.

So what does it do?

  • Take photos, add a note to go along with it & transcribe the text*. Take a photo of that book cover and remind yourself that you want to look for it next time you're at the library. It will even transcribe the text in an image.  *This "grab text" feature is only available in the browser app or on an Android device, Not in the iOS app.
  • Record a voice memo. and add text or even a photo to go along with it. When you are driving, have a great idea but can't stop to jot it down, create a voice note. It even transcribes it. 
  • Create a checklist. Make your shopping list and "tap" the items to mark them off as you go.
  • Set a Reminder. Every note allows for you to set a reminder for a specific time & even a specific place.        
  • Copy to Google Drive. Keep will add any note/photo/voice memo directly to your Google Drive, allowing you to access & utilize the content in many ways.
  • Share notes with others. You can create a grocery list, share it with your spouse who also uses
    Keep and both add to it so you don't miss anything...all from your smartphone. Any note can be shared with multiple people as long as they have a Google account.  
  • Create Labels for Organizing Notes. You can create different labels that will allow you sort your notes quickly. You could have a label for personal notes and another for work notes.
  • Access Keep from anywhere. Because it's web-based, you can create and manage your notes from within Chrome on a computer, Chromebook or from the app on your phone or tablet.
Keep is robust enough to meet many needs yet simple enough to not be overwhelming. It's quick, it's easy to navigate and I am finding out that it's becoming my go-to tool for keeping up with my notes. You can find the Keep App in the Chrome Web Store HERE. It is also available in the App store on iOS and Android.

For more on Keep, click here.
7 Reasons You Might Actually Want to Use Google Keep from PC Magazine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why Participate in Hour of Code?- Karen Darroch, HCS Tech Integration Coach

Why Participate in Hour of Code?

Hour of Code week is coming up next week, December 7-13. So the big question I have been asked lately is, "Why should my class participate in the Hour of Code?" Last year, as a classroom teacher, I signed my students up for the Hour of Code at I thought it would be fun for my students to participate in a nationwide event. Little did I know when I signed my students up I would become a true believer in the power of code. Yes, the power of code. Last year as a classroom teacher and this year as a technology integration coach, I have witnessed children become leaders who otherwise would follow. I have seen children so excited about code, they continue courses at home offered by I have seen children problem solve, collaborate , and persevere. After teaching a coding class I often ask the students what did they learn. Responses from children include:

  • I learned to never give up!
  • I love the challenge.
  • I learned how important it is to review my work.

Children are curious and want to learn how to make things such as computers and robots do useful things. And while coding is fun, what really matters are the lasting benefits of building skill sets such as logical thinking, problem solving, persistence, collaboration, and communication.

This year the Hoover City Schools Foundation is sponsoring Hour of Code by providing iCode stickers to every student who completes Hour of Code. If you haven't already, please click the link below and sign up your classroom. added two fun coding activities centered around Minecraft and Star Wars. This will be exciting for your students! Contact me if you would like for me to teach an Hour of Code lesson to your students that week.

Thank you Hoover City Schools Foundation for your support!
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HCS Admins as Digital Leaders

HCS administrators met today to discuss digital leadership, using technology as a tool to transform, and model using social media. #hcseli 

It is hard not to stop and look when you see a room full of High School Students playing with Mr. Potato Heads and even harder not to stop when you see their teacher with a giant Buccaneer themed Mr. Potato head. 

Mrs. Westerlund and her computer students were using the “spuds” to do a Java lesson.   Mrs. Westerlund  explained that the Giant Potato represented a Super Class in Java . In java that means it was the top most class and all other classes were derived from it and inherited it state and behavior.  The smaller student potatoes would all have started with the same state and behavior but as students overrode those original forms there would be variables created and state and behavior will change.  The students will continue the lesson by creating UML  diagrams.  Unified Modeling Language is a graphical way to look at computer programs and workflows. The student changes ranged from adding different hats to switching the mouth with a ducks bill.  I look forward to seeing how the potato with the duck bill graphed. I guess in Java is like everything else:  “If it quacks like a duck...”

Keith Fulmer, HHS Tech Integration Coach