You Joined Slack. Now What?

First, A Thank You

I appreciate each of you so much for trusting this cause and learning yet another tool in the hopes of better communication. By committing to this, we can streamline our communication leaving us less frustrated as we search for some schedule from two weeks ago. This also is a chance for us to actually share about teaching ideas, apps and create a collegial space to grow together. So, thank you. I am so excited!

Download the App….Everywhere

If you haven’t already, download the app on your phone, iPad and computer. This will take away the problem of remembering to check your slack inbox. The will alert you via a notification (which you can silence and customize via settings >notifications >Slack) to let you know someone has posted.

To silence a particular channel or set your Do Not Disturb to a time frame that works for you, click on Settings within Slack. I have our workspace set to not disturb between 6pm and 7am. However, you can change that default for your personal needs.

Follow channels!

I have set up some channels that I think will be most used by us. The best part is, you don’t have to join any channel that doesn’t apply to you. Click on channels on the tool bar on the left. If you are on the computer, actually click on the word “channels.” If you are on an iOS device, click on the plus sign. Choose each channel one-at-a-time that you would like to join. Make sure to click “Join Channel” on the bottom of the page for each channel. Feel free to add a channel that you think might be valuable. If you would like to set up a private channel with just your team, choose “private channel” and add one!

Use the Directory to Direct Message People

Click on the three dots on the top right corner. Then click directory. Here you will see everyone who is on the workspace. You can direct message them and even look at files shared between just the two or you.

Utilize Search and Stars

Within each individual chat, channel or workspace you can search for files and messages. This is an unbelievably easy way to access old schedules or documents shared. In addition, if you like a message or want to quickly access important documents you can star them. In the same menu, you can click on starred messages and re-access them with ease. How amazing is that?! See what I mean about it being like Schoology but even better?

There is more to learn. If you don’t want to wait until I post again, see me and I would be happy to share tidbits with you! Next step topics could include: how to post a gif, integrate Google Drive, tag people, posting to multiple channels, etc.

Close that Laptop and Go Mobile

I am probably not the only one whose school iPad was, until recently, collecting dust on the bottom of my office shelf. I believed that my computer was a better tool to complete my tasks. Even as a history teacher, laptops tended to be my tool of choice for student work. This belief in the superiority of the computer changed after I met with our school’s Apple rep.

He was not surprised that a lot of the teachers don’t use their iPad during instruction. He attributes it, not to iOS’ limitations, but to our discomfort with the unknown. Finding the buttons on our favorite apps on the iPad takes some learning and it is often easy to just rely on what we know. He explained that by design, computers inherently limit successful tech integration because of their lack of mobility. Computers are portable devices and require a lap or desk to be used. This means the user must revisit a fixed location to utilize it during instruction. The iPad, on the other hand, is a mobile device that enables the teacher to move and engage with students while still connected to the necessary instructional tools. And, he argues, the iPads are more robust than we give them credit for. Apple Classroom and the large amount of creativity apps have only gotten cooler with the iOS11 update. I wasn’t convinced yet, but I was willing to give it a try.

Beginning the very next day, I took the pledge to rely on my iPad as much as possible. Most of you know me as the one you see running around the school going from meeting to meeting with my pink MacBook Air. This change was really hard for me at first. During the first few days, every time I began a project on my iPad I would normally do on the computer, I felt this confusion. The simplest task, like writing an email, was difficult. What do I click? How do I add a picture? A link? Fix a mistake? I borrowed a keyboard, which helped with the typing but it still took time and patience to feel as comfortable on this tool. I am now going on week 6 in this challenge and there is no going back. I am convinced that the iPad offers better tools for teachers than a computer. This blog post will focus on two of the benefits: productivity and mobility.

Be More Productive

With iOS 11, you can actually have dual apps on a screen at the same time. I love this for many reasons. For one, I can organize my screens based on productivity. In one screen, I have my calendar app next to the mail app. In another, I have Evernote, my note-taking app next to my to-do list app, Google Keep. On the other hand, I like that this dual view is only limited to two apps at a time. It actually helps me concentrate and be more productive on the task I am working on. If I need to see my other screens, I just double click the home screen. When using the dual screen, you can easily drag images and text from a website or photos into your document. Watch this 40-second video I made below to see how seamless it is to use two apps at the same time to add things to a class newsletter on Pages.

Many of us choose Word or Google Docs for our word-processing needs. Because the students have iPads, we should be modeling use Apple-based products. Often, Apple products work better and more efficiently on the iPad and with iOS 11, you can save documents in the Cloud and collaborate with others the same way Google Drive allows you to. For instance, the Numbers app is very simple and has a lot of features that make it so much more than just a spreadsheet app. It is also more user friendly than Excel. It would be a great tool for teaching the research and writing process. Each sheet can be a different step in the process: one sheet for obtaining sources. One for organizing research, another for the outline, etc. Teachers can design the template and share it through Apple Classroom or choose the “Collaborate with Others” option to have the whole class work on the same document. One thing that is always tricky about Google is sharing a document you created and having students have their own version. This usually takes extra steps by you or the students to make this work. With the sharing options on Apple products, we can share copies to each other seamlessly. Word is not even available for students so we should not be posting assignments as Word documents. Students are forced to convert before they even open it.

Be Mobile

Any document or PDF on your iPad can be shared with your students via Classroom. Imagine instead of posting the worksheet on OnCampus, you just opened the document and sent it to everyone’s iPad? It would certainly save some login time and allow you to adjust your lesson on the fly. And, with Apple Classroom on your iPad, you can see what everyone is doing in the room while you walk around and work one-on-one with students.

Use the iPad as your white board! Use a drawing app like Paper 53, Notes, Evernote or Notability and a stylus to solve math problem or model outlining for a couple examples. Project it on your Apple TV or use the app, Reflector, and suddenly everyone has a ‘smart board.’ iOS 11 actually allows you to screencast and record what you are doing on your iPad with or without sound. Imagine just pressing record as you teach a lesson and then sharing the video through Apple Classroom with the homework. What if you did that for a year and collected your lessons? The following year, you could use the flipped classroom model and support them as they do their homework in class, having got the lesson at home via YouTube. #mindblown

Your iPad has a way longer battery life than your computer. For someone like me who was consistently carrying a charging cord with an almost dead computer, I feel really free having just my iPad. And, iOS apps use way less battery than third party apps. Think about running Google Maps on your phone- kills your battery right? Well, Maps does not!

Mobility in Practice

I have been challenging myself to have students use the iPads as much as possible in real-world ways. “Real World” refers to ways people would use technology as a tool to be more productive, to communicate and to collaborate. For instance, in my 7th grade Idea Lab class, students used whatever app they wanted to brainstorm for the design thinking project. The only requirement was that it had to be an app that allowed you to draw and write/type. I gave them each a stylus, which they loved. It was interesting to see which app students chose. A lot of them chose Notes, and by the end, they had all switched to Paper 53. They had to get all of their brainstorms onto one iPad for the presentation, so they air dropped them to one student who connected to AirPlay to present.

After this assignment I realized that the kids are not as comfortable with iPads as we assume they are. I asked the kids: how many of you know how to use the dual screen and use it to drag pictures from one app to another? They all attempted to convince me that they knew: “Oh yeah, I do that all the time…..” But when I asked them to use the dual screen, many didn’t know how or claimed it wouldn’t work. Upon further investigation, it was clear many hadn’t even upgraded to iOS 11. In addition, giving kids stylus’ was like giving them a brand new iPad all over again. They were mesmerized by them. Some even used it to type letters. This was not the most efficient way. 🙂 Finally, when the first group presented, I had to remind them to connect through AirPlay. They tried to just hold up their iPad.

I want to get my students to a point where the tools on the iPad are not foreign or novel but just part of every day use, so they are better equipped to decide which app or tool works best for them. In order to accomplish this, we must constantly be modeling best practices ourselves.

Take the Challenge: #GoMobile

Have I convinced you yet? If so, I challenge you to join me in this movement and close your computer for an hour, a day, a week, a month or whatever time frame you choose and rely solely on your iPad.

Virtual Reality is Here and We’re Not Ready

***This article is a summary of the incredible presentation by EdTech teacher, Greg Kuloweic who has done extensive research on VR in education. Here is a link to the presentation and his resources. I highly recommend looking at the current research from Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

The EdTech Teacher Summit 2017 created a more realistic picture of where the world is going in technology and how quickly education must change to keep up. From virtual and augmented reality to wearables that measure emotion, modern technology brings exciting and moral implications to our world. These tools open major opportunities for bringing learning to life but they also pose serious threats to our understanding of truth and intellectual property.

The Answer for Teaching Empathy

Current research is quickly discovering that the immersion of people in a virtual world is an unbelievable tool to teach empathy. Imagine giving a middle schooler a headset that brings them to a Syrian refugee camp. They can see and hear things as if they were there. As they turn, so does the camera: up, down and side-to-side. Now imagine that while they are wearing the headset, they also are wearing a suit that hits more senses like feel, or smell to make the experience more realistic. You actually don’t have to imagine because these tools are already available.

Moral Implications

But with this great tool comes a lot of ethical questions. Imagine how scary or haunting an experience like this could be for someone because of how real it feels. The research has shown that people who have VR experiences actually remember the moments as if they were really there. And, the memories trigger from the emotional response. Think about the biases of the creators and how this might impact reality. Should textbook companies be creating these? News companies? Religious institutions?

Why should we care? In the age of ‘fake news’ our obligation to teach students to critically analyze the bias and intent of a media source is about to get a lot harder. Think about it. If consumers of VR actually remember experiences as if they were actually there, VR creators have the power to shape memories and therefore perceived truth.

Next Steps for Teachers

What should we do about it? Well, waiting for VR headsets to be as ubiquitous as iPhones to address this issue is definitely not the responsible response. We did that with social media and look where it has gotten us. Instead, expose your students to VR and while doing so, have open discussions about the pros and cons. Give them opportunities to critically examine these technologies by asking the right questions and taking the novelty away early. This could have an important impact on its growth and regulation in the future.

Let Students Consume VR

VR can be consumed or produced. The easiest way to immerse the students in your subject area and experience VR in a meaningful way is through the Google Expeditions app. The virtual tours allow students to travel around the world, outer space and even inside the human body. You guide the tour by giving them directions for where to turn. When they hit certain places, you can read information provided or guide them with your own information. This is basically PowerPoint on steroids. They can use iPads or they can use Google Cardboard headsets with their phones. Best of all, it’s free!

Give Opportunities to Produce VR

There are a ton of amazing ways you or your kids can produce VR. You don’t even need to take a 360 degree photo. Use one that already exists to create VR tours of famous places and museums. Open source 360 degree photos are available on and Flickr. In Flickr, you can search ‘The Commons’ for open source pictures and then ‘equirectangular’ to get a curation of 360 degree photos that are available for personal use. For 360 videos, go to YouTube and type “360 degrees” in the search.

Take 360 degree photos yourself! With the Google Streetview app, you can take them anywhere, and it’s free! This app does not seem to exist on the iPad. There are other apps that do a better job for a low cost.

After you have the picture, you can create a virtual reality tour for others to experience being in ‘your’ shoes. There are rumors that Google Expeditions will soon be allowing others to create their own Expeditions. This could be amazing for teachers especially if there is a library of non-Google created content for others to use. This will be an awesome way to make projects for a real purpose.

Google Tourbuilder, Roundme and Story Spheres are all programs that allow you to build your own tours although all are limited in what you can add. while one allows audio, the others only allow added texts. Tourbuilder is not available through an iPad. I encourage you to look through these as there are amazing examples on each of the websites.

CoSpace Edu seems by far the most expansive. You can add your own picture, one you downloaded from the above sources or you can choose from their library. Some environments are fictional and cartoon-like. You can add 3D models created on Tinkercad to your virtual world and you can access Google Poly library for open source 3D .stl files. Finally, there is a coding component you can add using block coding like Scratch to make the 3D objects move. It is fantastic and second graders can use it.

Ideas for Producing VR in your class:

  • Create a VR scene to a poetry reading
  • Create a scene in history or from a story
  • Take 360 photos in students’ favorite spaces on field trips. Kids can bring them back and curate a virtual fieldtrip
  • Find pictures of rooms in museums around the world and students can create their own virtual field trip.

Lead Discussions with Your Students

Discussion questions that can be adapted for all ages:

  • What is cool about VR?
  • How did it feel to be in another person’s shoes? How did it change your perception of that person or place?
  • If you could immerse yourself in another environment which would you choose? Where would you go? What environment would you not choose?
  • How could we use VR to help people?
  • How could we use VR to scare people?
  • Think about the creators of the VR environments. Do you think there is potential for bias? How could this become a problem?How could we solve that problem?
  • What rules should be in place to protect people?
  • Is it actually a benefit to empathize with people we disagree with? How so?
  • What about VR games? How cool would Minecraft be as VR!? How would it change the way you play the game? Is it possible to make a VR game too realistic? How could a violent video game like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty be too realistic in VR. If so, how can we protect people?

I encourage all of you to follow @gregkuloweic and @arvrinedu to stay up on this technology and how it is impacting education.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series: Wearable Technology Taps into our Emotions

How Will You ‘Make’ This Year?

We are ready to start our second year with our amazing D-Lab! Many of us already have ideas about how to integrate making, creating and design-thinking into their curriculum this year. Just in case you need some inspiration, here is a collection of of some cool ideas I found on Pinterest and other sites. If any of these piques your interest let me know and I will get you more information and start planning with you. Many of these projects can be altered to fit any curriculum!






Google Hack: Use Docs to Design Templates for Individualized Assignments

Did you know that you can type a document on Google Drive and save it in template mode? Students can then use it as a worksheet, only modifying their individual assignment. This is a great strategy for small groups to collaborate on ideas and organize research, or simply work independently on an assignment. Students love this because they can type their work and edit it later. Teachers love it because they can access their work at any point to make sure they are on task and creating beautiful work.  Students also rarely loose their work this way! 

Templates allows for easy differentiation or individualized instruction, as you can share different documents with different students. You can write personal notes, give hints, create scaffolds based on the needs of each student.

Here is a video for how to do this:

To learn more cool Google hacks, come to the Google Help workshop with Larry and Travis at lunch on Tuesday January 17th from 12:15-12:55 in my room.  

Sign up here for this workshop or any other for January

Some more cool links to Google hacks:

22 Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Google Drive

A couple hacks from Teacher Priorities:



Simple Tips to Manage Technology in your Classroom

As great as technology is for students, it can definitely be a headache for the teacher. We have all seen this scenario: twenty students all focused diligently on their screen not listening to any of your tips and not reading any of your directions. Their one problem solving method is to blurt “I can’t do it” and then repeat your name numerous times until you come and rescue them. By the time 45 minutes is up, you never want to hear your name again. Not to mention that half the students were off-task while you were helping individual students.

I know a lot of us can relate as we tackle bringing 21st century devices into our classrooms. This week I did a lesson using Google’s “My Maps” which is a collaborative tool for annotating maps. I knew I would have to prepare for a lot of hands raised with “Mrs. Wirth, I need help.” But after carefully reflecting on past experiences teaching with technology, I decided to take a different approach to technology. Below are the criteria I used for designing my lesson with the help of Adrienne:

1. Make sure you have students close the computers before giving directions (close lids, push 6 inches in front of you, hands on lap, etc). This way, you know they are at least attempting to listen. 

2. Hand out, display, or put on Schoology detailed the directions that are easily accessible to the students. This way, students can refer to the directions as questions arise and for students who are ready to go ahead. Provide an extra step or challenge for early finishers. This will give you time to really help the kids that need it. 

3. Set the expectations before they begin. For instance, discuss what good choices are and bad choices are regarding the tool. Consequences for going off task? What is considered off task? What does a good researcher look like? Etc. 

4. Provide tools that enable students to solve their own problems. For questions, a teacher’s role in bringing technology into his or her classroom is not to teach how to do everything, but to provide tools for students to discover solutions on their own. For instance, you can remind them that Google and YouTube how-to videos can be used to help them. Encourage them to problem solve by using the Help feature in an application or google their question.  IT and Tech experts do it all the time!

5. Use the students. Enlist helpful or “techy” students to help out their peers. You can even have a lanyard attached to an “Ask Me” sign they can wear, which turns into quite a badge of honor. 

6. WALK AROUND! Technology should never be left unmonitored. The more you walk around the less funny business will happen and the more you can correct misunderstandings about the assignment. You can also give hints for how to do things, even if you refuse to tell them! 🙂


Here is my lesson for My Maps. This application can be used to annotate a story that takes place in different settings, create a travel journal, map out empires on a modern map, map a pilgrimage or historical journey, calculate distance and area, etc. Students can work together on the same map from different places and computers. They can add drawings, videos, writing, and pictures.