A New Tool (at least for me) to Try!

This year, in addition to being building based (I’m at a middle school) the members of the Teacher Resouce Specialists for Technology (TRST) team and I are also department based. This means I will also be coordinating with the Math & the Science Supervisors to help integrate technology at department meetings, model effective use, and discover new tools for them.

Our Math Supervisor heard about a web tool and wanted to feature it at the next department meeting. We (myself & my colleague Jessica) put together some resources for how to set up a teacher account as well as how to integrate it into instruction. One of my teachers wanted to try it out. So we met ahead of time and developed a lesson. I then came in and team taught the lesson utilizing the tool; we debriefed after the period, and then I stayed for the second period to coach her so she could do the last two periods on her own.

The tool we were using is called Verso, which if you haven’t tried it, take a look (heck it’s free). It allows students to view content then respond to a posted question. The students are viewing everything anonymously while the teacher sees exactly who posted. The students, once they have submitted their response, can then view, reply, like, or flag their fellow respondents. The teacher has a feature where they can group similar responses which could be good for differentiated grouping.

It can be hard to find edtech tools which incorporate into math, but I feel this tool easily fit in. The teacher was amazed by how well the students took to the tool with minimal instructions. We planned this for a lesson on Order of Operations. I created a screencast (below) which the students watched and then they needed to respond to:

When the student looked in the back of the book to check his homework answer, why was it incorrect? Explain using mathematical terms.

A teacher can either respond to students as their self or go into “student mode” and appear as an anonymous classmate. Here is a screenshot of first period’s responses in the Verso dashboard:

1st Period's Verso Dashboard

This gave the teacher the opportunity to see each student’s prior knowledge of Order of Operations. We were able to push the students who understood the topic with questions that delved deeper (i.e. “Is there ever a time where you would do addition before multiplication?”) We also knew which students were going to need a refresher or individualized attention on this topic.

Verso is definitely a tool to check out! Have you used the tool before? If so, please comment below on your experiences with it.

A Teacher Inquires…

“I want to dip my feet into badging. I want to introduce it very simply with not a whole lot for me to manage on my end. I want to hold the students accountable for earning it, but don’t want to have a lot to keep track of. Can you help me with this?”

Yes, yes I can. And I did. Before I explain the workflow and embed the documents, etc. I want to layout a piece of background info. The teacher is utilizing Google Classroom, which makes this process very organized, in my opinion.

I started out with an activity connected to what they are working on. This activity was posted in Google Classroom as an assignment, with no due date and it made a ‘Copy for Each Student’.

I designed a simple badge using Google Drawing and made sure that I did: ‘File’, ‘Publish to the Web’ so I could get a link to the image for later use with FormMule.

Now students had the option to complete this for a badge. This also gave the teacher the ability to check their work, leave comments in the Doc (if they wanted) and finally give them a “code word” (via ‘Private Comment’ in Google Classroom) when completed to enter for a badge.

Another item which was attached to the original ‘Assignment’ was a Google Form (embedded below). This Form collected the student’s email address, name, and code word. Using FormMule in the response Sheet, an email is generated to the student which contains their earned badge (an example email follows the Form).


The big key (other than setting a “code” for FormMule to accept), was the html code: <img src=”Publish to the Web URL from Google Drawing” alt=”badge”> entered into the body of the email template, this way the image displays in the message and isn’t added on as an attachment.

The student receives the badge in their email, now what? Great question. There was a third item attached to the assignment in Google Classroom. The Doc below shows four things the student could do with their badge.

Students loved this activity, I think the percentage was about 93% earned the badge. The teacher felt there wasn’t a whole lot to manage on their end and would like to sit down and look at another activity setup similarly to this one.


Have you ever tried badging in your classroom? What did you use or did you create your own method?

Add Audio to ThingLinks

A new, highly anticipated and often requested feature has been added to ThingLink Premium and Pro accounts — the ability to add audio (MP3 or M4A) as a hot-spot/image tag.  You can read more about it at the ThingLink Education Blog announcement posted in early October.

I’ve also dabbled with it, creating one from a podcast episode from Mike Rowe. Embedded below is a very simple interactive image you can explore to get a sense of the new feature.  Also, I would recommend taking a listen to Mike Rowe’s ‘The Way I Heard It’ linked in the image, too.

It’s Been Awhile…

So, I haven’t posted on here in quite some time.  Lots of things have popped up in life that has always pushed this to the back burner.  I do need to get back into a habit of posting and sharing because it also helps me to gain new ideas from those who read my posts and reach out to me.  It also gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I love to do, integrate technology into education.  Finally, it gives me a repository of the ideas I have done which I can refer back to later when I forget what I did or how I had something setup.  In addition to being neglectful of my blog, I have also pulled away from social media posting, mainly Twitter.  Haven’t felt very connected lately which is something I need to get back to.

What Educators Can Learn from Business Intelligence

“Business Intelligence” boils down to the science and tech of operating an enterprise efficiently. Solving problems before they begin, turning chores into automatic sequences and accounting for “background” data to help to paint a more vivid picture overall are just some of the specific avenues of business intelligence. It’s these aspects of B.I. and more which offer educators much in terms of optimum ways to run a classroom or lecture hall. Indeed, educators have a lot they can learn from business intelligence.

When applied to enterprise, business intelligence, breaks down into five categories of service. We will use these categories to highlight how B.I. concepts can be borrowed by educators to achieve similar results in class.


Quantifying the impact a particular lesson has on a class or individual students is not always easy to accomplish. What material grabbed interest, which was most forgotten, and what can be tweaked to cross the threshold between memorable and ingrained knowledge shared during a lesson? Educators can use techniques similar to the key aspects of leading marketing automation software to better understand the way their students are responding to lessons. For example, determining which links in a homework email assignment are clicked and how often, or whether or not online content sees an uptick in traffic. The difference, of course, is instead of determining which leads to follow, educators are deciding which materials to bring back next semester and what parts of the syllabus need replacing.


Having the data doesn’t necessarily mean the path to changing course and replacing position is instantly carved out. Similar to the way in which enterprise must draw conclusions from collected data, educators using business intelligence inspired techniques to gather data on student responsiveness need a way to make sense of it all. Indeed, data analytics are making their way into the classroom. While educators have, in a sense, been analysts for decades (assessing test scores, evaluating student performance, etc) there was more time to manually investigate these trends after class prior to the modern age of overworked teachers. In short, analytics help today’s educators manage their limited time.


It pays to be prepared. Businesses know this and, consequently, place a great deal of importance on reporting – making sure the right information gets to the right people in the right ways within a company. This business intelligence trend easily transfers over to academia if one thinks of administrators as executives and teachers/professors as office workers. Trends for better or for worse ought to be documented – and correlated data added into the mix. Principals and department chairs may not want daily or even weekly updates, but having progress reports at the ready allows for educators to better defend their actions and/or promote change.


The best educators are ones who know the mechanics of passing knowledge onto students extend beyond their own efforts. Support staff, administrators, and fellow teachers all contribute to what happens within a single classroom, even if they aren’t there teaching the lessons. The same dynamic holds true in the business world – and there’s no hesitation on the parts of most enterprises to make sure data is shared amongst staff for the greater good. The same concept ought to be applied within the walls of schools and universities. Education is a team effort, and collaboration is necessary for ensuring the most effective practices are applied while unproductive measures are culled.

Knowledge Management

Similar to the need for analytics to make sense of measurements, collaborative data sharing within education systems needs knowledge management for tangible results to occur. A study of infographics popularity among students, for example, isn’t much without a path going forward for addressing any negative observations. This will undoubtedly require a coordinated effort, which ultimately hinges on a school’s ability to manage the information at its disposal. The concept of effective knowledge management has been a standard pillar of business operations for decades but continues to struggle to get its footing in education. Only when schools and universities can effectively solve problems as a team can they expect to get a handle on all the data they collect on student performance in the modern age.

Business and education have more in common than either wants to admit. Highlighting the similarities are the ways in which business intelligence concepts can help improve academic systems. Applying B.I. to the classroom isn’t a miracle cure for all the problems associated with the world’s academic institutions, but it does help to illuminate the connections between student data and the honest attempts by educators to improve learning standards going forward.

Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

About the Author: Jenna B.

Jenna is a freelance writer who got into blogging in college and copywriting upon graduation. Jenna has usually written about topics that mean a lot to her such as health and medicine when applied to family and loved ones. Jenna is an avid runner as long as it’s not a marathon distance jog! She’s on twitter (she still hasn’t fallen in love with and doesn’t use often) @JennaFromDaBlog!

Education’s Biggest Cyber Security Threats of 2016

Going to school is one of those portals virtually everyone in the industrialized world will pass through. In the age of the internet and proliferation of personal computer technology, this means billion digital trails throughout millions of educational systems – and counting. In short, it adds up to vast amounts of data and sensitive information; just the sort of thing that appeals to cyber criminals.

With the latter half of this decade well underway, the major cyber security threats facing educators and students are as follows:

Data Breach

The classic data breach designed to seize digital files in bulk remains the single greatest threat to academic cyber security. The importance of business grade network security in school systems has never been greater. Virtually everything needed to know about a person is likely to be found within the files of a school district – age, address, social security number, contact information, relatives, et cetera. It’s critical for school systems to opt for network protection enabling a continuous monitoring of web traffic, as this is the primary avenue of attack.

Audio/Video Breach

Cameras have long been installed in school hallways and perimeters to improve security. Nowadays cameras are everywhere – on smartphones first and foremost. The ones on walls and ceilings for surveillance are also tethered to the web via remote streaming and cloud storage. In short, these tools used for safety and convenience can be turned around and used against us via backdoor attacks online. School campuses, like other places where hundreds of people congregate daily, are optimal targets for such malicious activity, especially audio collection. Not to mention, kids are more likely to download the sorts of apps and programs likely to harbor these kinds of malware.

Discount Gadgetry

Classroom budgets in most cases are severely limited if not downright nonexistent. In an age where technology is tied with education, this means educators are turning to discount gadgets and devices when making purchases for student use. Though well intentioned, this can create a hole in school network security. Far too often these online “bargains” for flash drives, laptops, and tablets are because the seemingly brand name products are indeed counterfeit. Increasingly, these knock off items are being pre-infested with bugs designed to track users and mine for data.

IoT Breach

The Age of the internet is swiftly turning into the Age of the internet of things – or IoT for short. In the classroom of tomorrow (closer to today than you think), everything from chairs to windows may be directly connected to networks for data analysis purposes. Simply put, the amount of data revealing human patterns will increase, allowing for greater convenience but equally creating a more tempting target for online criminals to pursue. Schools will, of course, be high on the list of opportune places for cyber criminals to focus their attention. Network protection will need to integrate the internet of things into the game plan.

The U.S. Department of Education is also there to help. The DOE guidelines for safeguarding student privacy offer extensive advice and recommendations for preventing the aforementioned security breaches and cyber attacks from happening on school systems across the country.

Every year, millions of students pass from one grade to the next in the pursuit of education. This generates countless digital files and records containing sensitive information about students and staff. Care must be taken to not only prevent the traditional forms of cyber attacks but prepare for the ways in which these attacks will be performed in the near future.

Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

About the Author: Jenna B.

Jenna is a freelance writer who got into blogging in college and copywriting upon graduation. Jenna has usually written about topics that mean a lot to her such as health and medicine when applied to family and loved ones. Jenna is an avid runner as long as it’s not a marathon distance jog! She’s on twitter (she still hasn’t fallen in love with and doesn’t use often) @JennaFromDaBlog!