From Uninspired to WOW!

Today is Saturday, August 26.  I’m nearly two weeks late of my expected blog post.  But truth be told, on August 14, I was feeling a bit, well, uninspired.  I was working in my classroom and getting thing organized, cleaned and looking pretty to start the year, but thoughts of using technology were last on my mind.  It may have been because I found boxes and boxes that looked like this:

Devices that had been stored for the summer, un-opened, dusty and uninspiring.

But then something changed.  The first day of school came, the children walked in and I saw their smiling faces.  I was excited for the start of the year and so were they!  I walked around with a permanent smile on my face for nearly the entire day.

Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching subjects, it’s about making connections, building relationships and fostering a love of learning that runs deep and is genuine.  Remembering that was just what I needed to start the year.

This year is different for me.  I have taught kindergarten for the past 17 years.  I am the author of the K-2 Now Classrooms book which was written from my experience as a Kindergarten teacher.  However, this year, I am the Reading Specialist and everything is as new for me as it is for the kids in our school.  New, exciting and refreshing.

In thinking about what inspires me, I remembered it is the children AND the teachers I work with.  Being able to spend my first two days walking into each classroom and talking with all the teachers in our building inspired me.  I was able to notice things in just two short days, that I hadn’t noticed before.  Themes.  Themes of building relationships,building trust, building learners.

On day two of school.  I was in multiple classrooms that were building foundations for learning.

So, how does that relate to technology?  Well, what I saw, were still dusty boxes of devices, sitting in a closet, but what I witnessed from teachers and heard, was the building of excitement and expectations of how devices are used in the school setting in a MEANINGFUL WAY, long before they are even passed out and powered up.

I saw posters like this:

I heard discussions and excitement about the return of devices to students hands.

In the classrooms that were prepared to hand-out devices, it was done thoughtfully and with purpose, fully explaining every step.


One teacher created a PowerPoint to review all the buttons of an iPad and their importance.  It was a great refresher!

Additionally, she beautifully executed some lessons in our K-2 book in which we outline taking a selfie and uploading it to the home screen.  An activity which greatly excited the students and created a buzz in the classroom that included much chatter and giggling.  What an amazing way to start day 2 of school.

As the weeks evolve, so will the use of using technology.  What is important to remember is that technology also needs to be used to build learning, creativity, problem solving and relationships.

I challenge you to use technology in a creative, meaningful way this school year.  The NOW Classroom team is here to help, and hopefully inspire you every step of the way.

Make this year fun.  Make it meaningful.  Make it creative.  ENJOY every minutes with your students and inspire them to do great things and think beyond the classroom walls.  Enjoy the journey!  Happy School Year 2017-2018!For 8/14/17

For 8/14/17

By: Beth Hatlen


NOW Classrooms Leadership Guide Almost Done!

As our team wraps up final edits we look forward to the October publication of our NOW Classrooms Leadership Guide. Once we are done with this round of editing the next time we will see our work it will be in a book! Our leadership team of authors are school administrators and consultants on the front lines of creating  change-focused schools starting with teaching and learning and adding digital tools. This journey is what this guide is about.

Through this writing project, we have weaved our experiences together to create a guide for other leaders ready to lead change. Our team is made up of five practicing administrators, two retired superintendents and one educational consultant all from different school districts in the Chicago area. Although the journeys to creating digital rich schools have been different we write about the common themes and things we collectively have learned along the journey. We created an easy to pick up guide to share and discuss with your administrative team as you create change-focused schools.

“This book is all about leading a change-focused school. Each member of this writing team is a practicing educator or education consultant, and although our journeys have been different, we all share a passion for thinking about how to launch students into the rapidly changing world outside of school, equipping them with the digital skills to be lifelong learners and change agents. We also share a passion for thinking about the best practices for you—a K–12 administrator who shares these goals—to help your team create the highly engaged and digitally enriched 21st century classrooms that will lead students to develop those skills. It’s with that passion that we wrote this guide for you.” xv NOW Classroom Leadership Guide

There are also four additional books in the NOW Classroom series, coming out this Fall is the k-2 book, the 3-5 book, the 6-8 book, and the 9-12 book. With 27 co-authors on this project look forward to hundreds of classroom tested lessons k-12 and much more to create change-focused schools.

Our Three Goals with the NOW Classrooms Leadership Guide

  • Thinking about how to launch students into the rapidly changing world outside of school
  • Equipping students with the digital skills to be lifelong learners
  • Create change agents
    Future blog posts will focus on the three goals. For now, our administrative writing team is busy launching a new school year as they also finish the editing of the Now Classrooms Leadership Guide. Pre-order your copy today!

Meg Ormiston


Connecting Students with a Global Audience

When I first heard about sharing with a global audience I was excited to do so, but like with some many things, the divide between great ideas and actions, was too big for me to jump across. I just didn’t know how to connect my students globally. Fast forward a few years, and now I realize I was taking the wrong approach. I was looking for an individual classroom in a certain area, like connecting a Spanish class with a class in Spain, to explore the exact same content together. A better way of thinking is to share to a broader audience, publish students ideas, and connect with an established group of people.  Here are a few ways to connect and share with a global audience.  

TED Ed Clubs

Just like TED talks, TED Ed has created a 13 lesson curriculum that teaches students how to design a TED style talk to allow students to share their passions and amplify their voice. Through the program, students are able to connect with other clubs around the world to share ideas and grow their global perspective. The lessons help them explore their ideas and craft their story in a way that is appealing to others. Animation lessons are also included. Students create and record their talk then it is published on the TED Ed youtube channel. Students can even earn a chance to attend TED Ed Weekend in New York City where they can give their talk on the TED stage.  Head to to apply to run a TED Ed Club. 


Global Student News Network

Don Goble and his students have created a space called the “Global Student News Network” that allows teachers to submit student created media to be featured on the site. The goal is to spread positive student media to connect stories from around the world. You can find videos from the students in my district at “Youtube Playlist of Six-word stories on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Infections.” Tweet your student work to @GlobalSNN to share to the site.

Global Math Task Twitter Challenge

Connect your math class to classes around the globe with the Global Math Task Twitter Challenge. Each week, you can connect with classes at the same grade level and share and solve math tasks appropriate for your grade. Students are able to share their thinking and learn how others would solve the problems. The chart of fall connection is already starting to fill up. Check it out at 

These three options offer a variety of ways to share your students’ voice and connect with a broad audience. I hope you will find something you are comfortable using!

Written by: Jenny Lehotsky







Perspective on Education by an Educator, Father of a Freshman and First Grader

I am starting my 17th year in the public high school system in the state of Illinois teaching at a large Chicago suburban school.  My wife and I have four kids; Luke 14, Jack 10, Reese 6, and Cole 3.  Luke started

Picture of the Parker Family

high school today, Jack fifth grade, Reese will be starting first grade and Cole preschool.


I am very excited to see what the coming year as for my three school-age children.  I have the unique opportunity to have three students in three different buildings at three very different points in their academic career. I am looking forward to seeing the environment the teachers and schools provide for them to thrive.

As an educator, seeing the changes occurring in education, I need to express my excitement for the #NowClassroom that I see happening throughout the public school systems.  There is some concern when I see some educators not quite as excited about the shift that is happening in the classroom.  This is where the building teacher leaders will play a role in demonstrating the benefits of the shift in education that we see today.

As in many professions, there is a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy, in education.  Teachers must have enough love for their profession and students to move forward despite all of the noise.  The teacher leaders in the buildings have to have the self-motivation to excel in their profession and the drive to stay ahead of trends in education.  A teacher has to love the adventure of being a pioneer at their school.  They have to be willing to experiment with new ideas, despite the chance of failure, for the hope that all learners in the classroom will be successful.  

Storytelling is a skill that the some of the most effective and memorable teachers I’ve known, possess.  They can paint a picture for the students to visualize and help the students tell their story to a global audience beyond the four walls of the classroom they sit in.  They have to knock down the walls and communicate with the world.  to ask questions, learn, and give the students a voice. Students need to learn how to share their work with an authentic audience, collaborate globally, give and take constructive criticism, and help design solution for global issues.  Teachers have to be innovators, but also give up control, allowing the students to innovate.  

The days of teachers setting up their classroom sitting in rows, handing out photocopy after photocopies of worksheets, all multiple choice test, allowing for no student voice, assigning busy work for homework just because, and several other traditional old school ritualistic practice work and assessments, that frankly do not allow the students to succeed to their fullest potential, are thankfully dissolving in our education system.  The teachers that I have collaborated and networked with, want their students to succeed now and in the future.  The teachers are willing to put in the time and effort for this to happen.  They just need the time and resources to allow for this work to take place.  The #Nowclassroom will prepare the teachers to help the student be prepared for the world outside of the classroom.  The students need to develop the 21st Century Skills and the Four C’s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) in order to be successful in the future.  As educators, it is our job to help the students develop these skills.

Students learning how to extract DNA from a strawberry.

My son and daughter are both excited for the start of the school year. Obviously, they will have different experiences in their respective grades, However, both have an excitement for learning that a #Nowclassroom teacher can mold and shape into great achievements throughout the course of the year.  I hope that the teachers that my kids come in contact this year, and their entire academic career, will build off of that excitement.  I hope the teachers help develop their skills of questioning, collaboration, reflection, how to learn and think, empowerment and ownership, ability to capture and share their ideas with a global audience and stay self-motivated.  These are just a few skills that the students of today and tomorrow need to be successful in the real world.

Scott Parker

Downers Grove South High School


Starting a New Year: Focus on Learning

Typically the start of a new school year marks the implementation of new technology. In some schools, iPads or Chromebooks are introduced for the very first time. Organizations who have equipment might be readying to add new software, or have just trimmed down what was once a long list. It is important to make sure that, whatever the case may be, that student learning remains front and center.

In order to keep the focus on learning, it is important that the district’s plan for technology be based upon learning outcomes and a model that supports that vision. There are two models districts can use to put the learning first: the SAMR Model and TPACK.

The SAMR Model was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. SAMR is an acronym for Substitution, Augementation, Modification, and Redefinition.  It is designed to provide guidance for teachers to integrate technology in a way that cialis en france will support student learning at the highest levels. Similarly, it is designed to help teachers identify the best method for integrating technology.


TPACK, or the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, framework inter-weaves the three forms for knowledge to help teachers utilize these intersections to integrate technology. Whether it be student demographics, teacher proficiency, or available technology, every situation is unique so each combination of the three forms meets a different need.  Due to the complexity and overlapping nature of this framework, it represents an amalgam of work completed by many researchers.



Districts should explore each option and compare them to other driving factors such as strategic plans and belief statements about instructional technology. This can help bring to light the option that fits best. Then, it is important to train staff on the selected model to ensure it can be applied appropriately, no matter what technology is made available to teachers and students.

by Becky Fischer

Dir. of Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment Skokie School District 73 1/2  @beckylynfischer


Loosen the Reins and Let Creativity Blossom

Letting go of control of your classroom is scary. Being in charge of 30ish kids is a big responsibility and we, as teachers, don’t want anything to go wrong. However, many amazing things can happen when we give our students choices and the freedom to explore and express their learning in new ways. With a little preparation, students will rise to the occasion and thrive in an environment where the “reins” are loosened ever so slightly.

As a library media specialist and technology coach, I recently worked with Tim Strezo to design a project for his 6th grade Social Studies students where they would be given the freedom to choose the technology tool they wanted to create a product showcasing their knowledge of Ancient Indian civilizations. Students worked in groups in our school’s MakerSpace to make videos using the Green Screen, created Stop-Motion animation films using Play-Doh, Legos, or Dry-Erase marker drawings, acted out scenes, and performed raps, all while immersing themselves in the Social Studies unit content. While the process of relinquishing some control was scary at times, watching students become so engaged they forgot the time made the whole experience worth it. Here is how we approached this project:

Tim and I met with our Instructional Coach, Erin Christie, to plan and discuss the project logistics. We decided that each student would choose to answer one question about Ancient India that was covered in the unit’s material. In order to put students into groups, Tim created a Google Form for students to take which asked them which question they would like to answer. Students also had to answer which type of medium they would most like to use to create their product; Green Screen, Stop-Motion, Audio Recording, or e-book. Based on how they answered, students were put into groups of 3 or 4 to work on their product.

Before students could start creating their product in the MakerSpace, they had to make a rough draft. For Green Screen and Stop Motion movies this was a script, for audio recordings this was the song
or rap lyrics, and for e-books this was the book draft. Once the draft was approved, students could get to work on their final product.

In order to lessen the chaos of 30 students working in the MakerSpace at a time, we split Tim’s classes in half. Half of the class would work with Tim on new Social Studies material in his classroom, while the other half would work on their Ancient India project in the MakerSpace. Myself and my technology assistant, Julie Fredrickson, would supervise and assist students working in the MakerSpace. Halfway through the class, the groups would switch.
Students had roughly 4 of these class periods (about 2.5 hours) to complete their products. Groups that did not finish on time could arrange to come during lunch or after school to finish. For the most part, students remained engaged and on task throughout the project.

When students were finished with their product, they posted it to their Social Studies Google Classroom.

In order for Mr. Strezo to accurately assess how well each individual group member had mastered the content, he had each student answer their group’s chosen question through a Google Form. Students also had to rate their own performance while making the product as well as rate their groupmates. Students were graded on the Google Form response as well as the finished product.

Recommended Technology Tools
Here are some of the technology tools that our students used, but is by no means a conclusive list. You could create a list with any tools your students are familiar with or allow them to completely pick their own!

  • Green Screen by DoInk An easy to use Green Screen iPad app (costs $2.99).
  • iMovie a basic movie-editing application that comes for free on Apple products. Students can easily export Green Screen movies into iMovie and add music, titles, and voiceovers.
  • Stop Motion Studio is a free Apple and Android app that allows students to turn photos into Stop Motion videos as well as add voice-overs.
  • Garageband is a sound-mixing program available on Apple products where users can mix voice and instrument tracks together.
  • WeVideo is a web-based program and app where you can easily combine photos, video clips, text, and music to make custom videos. A paid subscription allows users to make Green Screen movies.

Try It Out!
You don’t have to launch a project of this scale your first time trying this technique. Start with something small, such as having your students recap a lesson at the end of class. Give students a few technology options and guidelines and see what that they will create…the results may blow you away!

by Megan Flaherty @D60WestviewIMC