Tag Archives: school

School Districts Pool Brainstorming Power

Pittsburgh educators know their students benefit from collaborative, project-based learning. Now, the grown-ups will give it a go themselves, through a new initiative facilitated by the LUMA Institute.

The Expanding Innovations Project, launched last month, assembles small groups of school districts and local partners to work on a project of their choosing, with funding support.

  • Fox Chapel Area School District, Woodland Hills School District, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children will collaborate on a 21st century early-learning project.
  • Elizabeth Forward School District will pair up with Duquesne City School District to come up with design challenges for students.
  • Propel Schools, Hopewell School District, and Quaker Valley School District will partner to provide STEAM training for teachers.

Over the course of the year, each group will work to develop new ways to build 21st century skills among their student bodies—skills that are based on students’ interests and that will serve them in the modern economy. LUMA, a Pittsburgh-based design education and training company, uses human-centered design techniques to help solve community problems in the digital age, and will lead trainings for the teams.

Expanding Innovations is supported by the Remake Learning Council, a commission of leaders from the education, government, business and civic sectors who work together to promote learning innovation and expand learning opportunities in the greater Pittsburgh region.

Supporting sustained inter-district collaboration is one way to do just that. School districts too often work in silos and miss out on key opportunities to share resources and ideas. In a region like Southwestern Pennsylvania—where schools have launched a virtual immersion lab, makerspaces, a STEAM magnet program, and innovative professional development programs—there is certainly a lot school systems can learn from one another.

Check back on the blog for an update on the participants’ projects later in the year.

Students Stay Organized with these 7 Mobile Apps

With the new school year beginning, students will be taking notes on their studies and expanding their already exhausting to-do lists. There are several apps out that help ease the process of staying on-track and organized. We stumbled across this list of 7 mobile apps that help students with notes. Check it out!

InClass is a free iPhone and iPad app that could be a very useful tool for students carrying those devices. InClass provides students with tools for taking text, audio, and video notes. Students can also use the app to take pictures of hand-outs, slides, and other valuable information that they see in class.

SugarSync is a cloud storage service that offers apps for iOS and Android. Using the apps you can take pictures of anything including those handwritten notes and upload them to your account. SugarSync synchronizes your files across all of your devices so that you can access your files anytime you are connected to the web.

Evernote is the service that I’ve been to store all of my bookmarks for the last year. I also use Evernote to create notes for myself. Sometimes I type the notes, sometimes I dictate notes into Evernote, and sometimes I just snap a picture and upload it to my account. Whichever method I choose, my notes are synched across all of my devices whenever they connect to the Internet. Evernote has apps for iOS and Android.

Skitch, which was bought by Evernote late last year, is designed for creating sketches and marking-up images. Using Skitch students can snap a picture of outlines they wrote by hand then circle or highlight the most important aspects. Skitch is available for iPad and Android.

With Google Drive installed on an Android device students can take a picture of anything and instantly upload it to their Google Drive accounts. Once the image is uploaded it can be accessed from any Internet-connected device. Students can write and highlight in their notebooks, but can also back-up those physical notebooks and access them online when they need to.

Dropbox is a cloud storage service that I’ve written about a handful of times in the past because for two years I used it in conjunction with DropItToMe to collect my students’ work. Dropbox for Android and iOS has an auto-upload feature that you could use to upload images of handwritten notes.

Box, like its similarly named competitor above, is an online storage service that you can use to store, sync, and share all kinds of files. The Box mobile apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. The mobile apps have an image import option that you could use to upload images of hand-outs and notes.

With the school year just beginning, now is as good a time as ever to get organized! Share these apps with students, and help them to be successful learners! To read more about these applications, check out the original article on Free Technology for Teachers.

5 Smart Habits for Educators to Develop for Back to School

Many educators have already resigned from their summer fun and headed back into the classroom. For those that have not yet made the move, MindShift has provided 5 habits worth developing for when it comes time to go back to school.


Textbooks are by nature restrictive. The chapter order is an imposition; the information within the book is only as current as the publication date. If you can, liberate yourself from the book! If you don’t have the luxury of foregoing textbooks altogether, you can still supplement them.

The first step is to choose a destination for the resources. If your school doesn’t already use a Learning Management System like Moodle or Blackboard, there are some excellent, free resources. Edmodo looks and feels a bit like Facebook but with education-friendly features like assignment postings, quizzes, due dates, and more. If you’d prefer more customizability and care less about the aesthetics of your destination you could build a wiki with your students on Wikispaces.


There are at least half a dozen apps and software for every job. Should you use Diigo, Delicious, eduClipper, Pinterest, or BagTheWeb to collect links? Is Photoshop, GIMP, Pixlr, or FotoFlexer the right photo-editing software? It’s overwhelming, and there really is no single right answer. (For the record, though, Diigo is great because of its iOS app and GIMP works well because it’s both free and powerful.) So pick one class of tools and become a ninja in how to use one of the leading tools in that class. Skills from one platform are transferable to the others. You will benefit from learning everything about whatever tool you choose.


In the middle of the school year, a good novel sounds much more compelling than a book on education. But books on pedagogical theory can influence your instruction in meaningful and enduring ways even if they are short on immediate, practical advice. Reading books about math pedagogy have helped educators teach more linear, logical concepts like cause and effect analysis using timelines or even Roman battle strategies. Here are some favorite books from a summer reading list:

Scaling Up Success
Education Nation
The Students Are Watching
Reinventing Project-Based Learning


Flipping is not just for math. The essential justification for flipping – that is, utilizing technology to redistribute tasks between homework and classwork to make both more meaningful – can benefit any class. Are there individual activities that you could turn into homework in order to devote more attention to students in class? Is there a tangential class discussion that you want to continue but can’t justify doing during precious class time?

To flip your lectures, you’ll need some kind of software. Camtasia is the crème de la crème of flipping software, but it’s expensive. An alternative is to film your lecture with your phone, edit it with Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie, and post it to Youtube as an unlisted video, and use the discussion board to allow your students to ask and answer questions.


A formal principal used to tell the kids: “Ask for it and you just might get it!” The same sentiment applies to teachers. Funds are limited in every school and they become increasingly scarce as the school year progresses. Get your requests in now. Look for major conferences in your nearest city and peruse the blogs, Twitter, and EdSurge for other educators’ assessments of previous year’s events. To demonstrate your genuine commitment to regular PD, also “attend” some free webinars such as these from ASCD or these from EdWeek. Watch TED talks about education and peruse Teaching Channel for lesson plan inspiration. Your administrators will be more inclined to encourage your continued learning, and you will get that much-needed “shot in the arm” on a regular basis.

If you haven’t ventured back into your classroom yet for another school year, take the time to read up on these helpful tips! MindShift has provided 5 easy ways to stay ahead! Read the full article here.