The Power of Great Teachers!

February 19, 2018

By: Beth Hatlen co-author of the k-2 NOW Classrooms: lessons for enhancing teaching and learning through technology book

Working in a 1:1 District and having my own children that attend the same district gives me the unique opportunity to celebrate when teachers have incorporated authentic and natural integration of technology in a meaningful way through education.  

Last week, our family sat down to watch the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympics.  My children were amazed with what what they saw.  Their excitement was partly due to what they had been learning in school.  My first grader came home telling me all about bobsledding and the rules of skeleton.  I looked at him in shock as I said, “Where did you learn that?”  At school, of course was his answer.  All week he had been studying and reading online and in print all about the Olympics.  Additionally, my third grader had been doing the same thing.  Of course learning about the Olympics was great, but that wasn’t what really impressed me.  

As we sat watching the Olympics, my daughter sat on her iPad.  I asked her to put it away and watch the Olympics with us (I figured she was watching KidsTube), but I was pleasantly surprised when she told me that she was creating a presentation for her class about the Olympics.  I knew this was something she was capable of, but when she was creating a presentation as the Olympics played on in the background, I was a proud mommy and delighted at what my child had been taught by her teacher.  She also didn’t stop there.  She immediately shared the presentation with us and also emailed her teach that Friday night to ask her if she could present it to the class.  With delight, she presented that Monday as the introduction to a unit about the Olympics.

What this example showed me, was that what my daughter is learning in her classroom, is #NOWClassrooms approved.  She took interest in a topic, learned how to research, created a Powerpoint presentation, learned new information and presented it to her class.  Her sense of pride was huge and her excitement to present what she created was genuine.  

This is what we hope will happen in all classrooms across America.  The ability to create and share learning with peers.  The ability to deepen knowledge of a subject and share it with others.  When students are taught how to use technology in a meaningful way, that is what they will do, both at home and at school, and hopefully in their future as a contributing member of society.  I am so thrilled that my children have teachers that uphold all the NOWClassroom ideals.  I feel lucky!  Keep up the good work teachers!
Here is presentation my daughter created (not perfect-but kid work she was proud of!):


The Use or Abuse of Chromebooks in Classrooms

This fantastic blog post by Andy Losik has been bothering me all week because it made me think deeply about my work with schools, and the real work that is ahead of all of us in edtech!

This report by the company Go Guardian has me really worried about the use of Chromebooks in the classroom but I don’t think this problem is limited to Chromebooks I think IF we could look at data across all student devices I think these trends would continue.

To quote Andy “In short a huge amount of Chromebook use is being spent on educationally questionable video games, low-level assessments, and YouTube with the two highest trending websites for over 5,000,000 learners (after G Suite for Education) being CoolMath Games and Renaissance Learning, the parent company to Accelerated Reader and other assessments.”

I’m right there ranting with you Andy especially when you hit a very sore spot of mine about creativity when you said “Zero sites for creativity are listed in the study. We know fewer kids are getting to create with Keynote, iMovie, and GarageBand due to device choice, but it doesn’t look like they’re getting many chances to use any of the Chrome-based alternatives to these apps either. No Soundtrap. No Canva. No WeVideo. No Pixlr. No Emaze.

Creativity is so important and being able to convey a concept in multimedia is a skill all industries are demanding now. A local school board president was asking me about what’s next in edtech and the discussion led to content creation. He holds a high-up position with a multi-national company that creates automobile interiors and he agreed.”

Again, I agree with Andy and the school board president, we have a ton of work to do in the world of edtech. When our team of 27 co-authors was writing our #NOWclassrooms series of books I had to constantly remind them of the real current reality in schools where technology devices are being used for low-level tasks and often just to keep kids busy.

I know my co-authors did not believe me during the writing and editing process, BUT that is because I picked some of the greatest teachers to join my NOW team. These teachers are not the ones on Cool Math Games or “drilling and killing” using digital worksheets. Instead, their students are creating, building, and sharing their work beyond the walls of the classroom. Check out our #NOWclassrooms Twitter feed to see their student artifacts.

Our series of five books are based on the ISTE standards and a big focus is on the 4C’s of communicating, collaborating, creating, and critical thinking as students use the digital tools to demonstrate their learning and as I like to say “get it out the door”. One thing each of our team did is we did not focus on specific devices, we wrote the lessons for teachers regardless of the devices they have. Use the technology you have for higher level thinking, problem-solving, group work to solve real-world problems.

Andy your rants have inspired me to keep working on the shift to create, build, and share student products with whatever device you have. I know it is possible because my dynamic team wrote five books about what IS possible using technology in the classroom. Help us get the word out there!


Meg Ormiston

Author, Teacher, Mom


Retelling through Code!

Using technology in a meaningful way is the key to success in the classroom.  As a former kindergarten teacher and the current reading specialist, it is so very important to use technology in an authentic way that meets the needs of students and their learning targets.

In our book, Now Classroom: K-2, we lay out how to move from basic coding with online apps and websites (such as,  to unplugged coding (without a device), and then coding with coding toys such as Bee-bots, Ozo-bots, Sphero or Puzzlets.  These toys allow  for coding through play.

Recently, our school librarian and resident technology specialist, Sandy Kampman, had the students retell a story using the  .  She had been working with the first grade students on a unit about Robert Munsch.  She had read and introduced many books by Robert Munsch.  The culminating activity was coding Bee-bots to land on parts of the story and retell it as the Bee-bots moved.

Working in small collaborative groups, different stories were given to each group to retell.  Students had to work collaboratively to determine the proper coding sequence to make the Bee-bot move appropriately.  Then the students had to also retell the story as the Bee-bot moved.  What a powerful retelling lesson!  Mrs. Kampman seamlessly taught coding through the use of authentic text that was meaningful to the students.  

Activities such as this example create a powerful lesson for the students.   Lessons such as this help them to internalize both literacy and technology.  I hope you will take some time to try this lesson with your students!  Please share anything you do with us at #nowclassrooms on Twitter so we can see how you are integrating technology with learning in your classroom.

Beth Hatlen

Author Now Classrooms K-2

Reading Specialist



Technology’s Place in Early Childhood

Parents everywhere debate this topic. Teachers debate it. Policy makers and pediatricians debate it.  The American Academy of Pediatrics current recommendation focuses on quality of screen time and discussions that families and teachers have around digital media. According to the APP, “For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.” They also suggest creating a digital media plan for your family (and classroom).

So what does this mean for early childhood educators and parents of young children?  We have amazing tech tools and vast information at our fingertips.  Pair these with high interest activities and engaging conversations and we have some EXCELLENT instruction!

In EC and the primary grades, students have so many questions about the world around them. Inquiry-based learning, driven by student’s questions and wonderings, can help students develop a working relationship with technology as a tool.  In the NOW Classrooms K-2 book, the first lessons help teach your students how to successfully navigate a device, and then how to work with project or problem based learning AKA inquiry learning. With your guidance, we can help students become technology literate, then fluent, and finally innovative all from their inquiries.

Our job then is to be digital media mentors. Digital media – digital books, articles, tweets, comments, pictures, videos – are all consumed daily by our students both at home and at school.  If we help our students develop a healthy digital media relationship, they can truly use it as a tool for expanding their understanding of the world around them.

Does technology have a place in early childhood? Yes! As digital media mentors, NOW we can give our students the skills and strategies they need to navigate tech.

Kirstin McGinnis

NOW Classrooms K-2 Author

Literacy Coach

Top Ten Tangible Tech Toys for 2018

Visitors to my classroom always wanted to know more about the tools and toys that the kids were learning with.  Now, in the STEAM Lab at our school, visitors still beg the question, “What IS that? Where did you get it?” The list is always changing, but here are some of my favorite tangible tech toys for 2018.

Original Hexbugs are hours – seriously HOURS – of fun! They are teeny tiny battery operated toys that move and bounce off of surfaces.  Give your students a challenge of building a path for them to get from point A to point B or fashion a chariot for them to see how much they could pull. There are also a ton of new versions that I haven’t gotten my hands on but look great! Check them out in the complete Hexbug store.

Osmo MindRacers are all the rage right now. Who doesn’t want to race cars down a ramp? Think those card racing arcade games now on your device with some Matchbox cars. Osmo has done a really nice job of adding products from their original Words, Numbers, and Tangrams.  There are now coding games and an iPhone base in the Osmo store.

Osmo Coding Jam and Coding Awbie are tangible coding blocks that link to the free corresponding Osmo apps and help students explore computational thinking.  It’s a fun challenge to get the right sequence of code to make the game functional.  

BeeBot An oldie, but goodie, BeeBot now has a BlueBot that is Bluetooth enabled. Early coders program the BeeBot arrows to get the robot to move.  Create a map of your classroom or city and code the BeeBot to take a tour!

Puzzlets takes a puzzle board and pieces with simple code and brings an app to life.  Students can sit together around one tablet or iPad and discuss how to get the characters around the app.  I love this one for centers.  Guide students to slow down and listen to each others ideas and ways to problem solve.

Cubetto A Montessori approved, tangible coding toy, Cubetto offers young learners the opportunity to explore coding and computational thinking. It is rather pricey, but worth the investment if you have a strong need in EC.

Robot Engineer combines reading and building a robot. Some students want to dive right in an build, others like to gain the background knowledge through the story before they do so.  There is no wrong way!

Jumbo Gears brings a Lego-esque experience to working with gears.  Students can build varying levels of gear systems on an interlocking board.  A great center activity and powerful inquiry learning experience.

Circuit Maze is a logic puzzle and another I haven’t been able to play with yet but I am pretty excited about it. A little more primary friendly than Snap Circuits (another good product) and teaches circuitry that can be expanded on in sequential lessons.

Sphero keeps adding on to its fleet of robots with increasingly easier to use models.  With the new mini Sphero, you can test out its robotics with your class without making a huge investment.  At our tech night this was one of the most popular stations!

Adult supervision required! Well, not really, but should be a consideration for all of these games.  Why? Because the conversation about tech tools helps students gain purpose and deeper understanding of the tools they use.  As with any tech tool, have a conversation with your students as they play and learn helps to deepen everyone’s understanding!

Some of these tools have been used in the NOW Classrooms K-2 book – check it out!

Kirstin McGinnis

NOW Classrooms K-2 Author

Literacy Coach

All Five Books Have Been Published!

Time to celebrate, all the #NOW Classrooms books have arrived! I spent the morning yesterday racing around to deliver the 9-12 books to three high schools in the Chicago area. Once the books arrived each of the schools did some type of surprise for my five co-authors. It was so fun to watch Twitter to see the surprises. Here are a few pictures. 

NOW Classrooms at Learning Forward 2017 in Orlando

I’m thrilled to present a session with co-authors Dr. Jamie Reilly and Cathy Fisher next week in Orlando Florida. This is the first presentation about the NOW Classrooms book series and we are excited to share what we learned on the journey! Learning Forward is a fantastic organization focused on the best practices for professional learning in education. Follow the excitement on Twitter!

This is the session we will be presenting Monday afternoon from 2:30-4:30.

1411 — Excellent Teaching Everyday Showcased on the District Hashtag

Ramp up content on your social media channels! Hear how a district team, nurturing a culture of continuous improvement, created collaborative classrooms purposefully using technology for teaching and learning. Hear how a districtwide hashtag, #D60Learns, empowers staff to share excellent teaching and learning every day. Leave this session with your district’s plan for successfully celebrating teaching and learning in your community.

A Historical Reflection of the Evolution of Technology

It was March of  2011.  I had just returned from maternity leave after my second child.  The day of my return was a teacher institute day.  It was a great way to ease into my return.  You see, I had spent most of the winter in the house with a little one and didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the world.  A world that had just released the first iPad.

The focus of this institute day was technology.  Our district had just purchased iPods for the library at each school and we were learning how to use them.  Later, we also got to try out some iPads as well!  The day was mostly structured as a demonstration of apps that we could use at our grade level.  We talked about how a game such as Bert’s Bag taught kindergarten students 1:1 math skills.  My colleague (fellow writer Nicole Ring) was sitting behind me and was beyond excited.  If Amazon Prime had existed right then, I think an iPad would have been delivered with two-hour delivery right then and there to the school.  However, she was able to wait until that evening before purchasing her own personal iPad.  Excitement in the room was high and enthusiasm about these new devices was visible at our inservice and in the days beyond.

The following year, a school set of iPads were purchased.  That summer, before leaving, each teacher got their OWN iPad to play on and learn with over the summer.  The joy and excitement continued throughout the next year.  Over the next three years, nearly every inservice was about technology.  We were always learning something new and exciting.  Teachers were beginning to move through the SAMR model.  It started with substitution, and moved to augmentation.  Some teachers stopped there, some were able to progress to modification and redefinition (check out our books for a better understanding of the SAMR model and its significance).

Then came curriculum changes, leadership changes, Common Core, and about a million other things (no surprise to you teachers reading this!).  Thus, the deep instruction on technology began to fade, even as the district became one to one.  Additionally, in the last three years, over ⅓ of 300 teachers in the district have 5 years of experience or less.  Meaning that many of our teachers were handed an iPad for themselves and a classroom full of iPads with little to no direct instruction or guidance.  While many new, young teachers were born when technology was readily available,  the instruction on ways to meaningfully use technology was minimal.  This left most new teachers having to  figure out how to use iPads in the classroom in a meaningful way on their own.  

My hope is that by reading this, you will remember that we cannot assume our newest teachers know how to integrate technology in a meaningful way.  Even veteran teachers continue to need refreshers on how to continue to evolve in their use of technology in the classroom.  So please, I ask you, as you continue in your technology quest, to continue to teach new teachers, and veterans, how to use technology in a meaningful way that will build and enhance the wonderful learning that is already happening in the classroom.

Beth Hatlen


NOW Classrooms Book Series Press Release


Twenty-Seven Educational Experts from Across the Nation Share Best Practices for Using Technology in Classrooms

Bloomington, IN (November 1, 2017)—The NOW Classrooms series, published by Solution Tree, presents classroom-ready lessons that support the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students. Educators can use the lessons, which are grounded in the essential four C skills—communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity—to connect technology to key learning outcomes and prepare learners to succeed in the 21st century.

“My books are written with the classroom teacher in mind and contain strategies that are practical and easy to implement in the classroom,” explained author Meg Ormiston. “The tech-rockstar teachers get everything quickly and are racing on to the next tip, app or tool. Most teachers need more time to practice as they familiarize themselves with various digital tools—I write for these teachers.”

The books are organized by grade bands of K–2, 3–5, 6–8 and 9–12. Each book’s chapters are divided into several sections containing three lessons each—one novice lesson, one operational lesson and one wow lesson (spelling out “NOW”)—that readers can choose from, based on their experience with the technology and their students’ needs. The series also includes a leader’s guide, which outlines a flexible framework for driving instructional innovation schoolwide or districtwide.

Carole Colburn, a technology teacher at Highlander Way Middle School in Michigan, praised NOW Classrooms, Grades 6–8, stating, “I love this book and how the authors organized it around the ISTE standards, including terrific lesson ideas that teachers can immediately implement in any middle school classroom. It is a great resource, and I highly recommend it for any middle school teacher who wants to create a classroom environment full of engaged, 21st-century thinkers and learners!”

Readers interested in getting technology updates from the authors can follow #NowClassrooms on Twitter or Facebook.

The NOW Classrooms series is available to order at

Books in the NOW Classrooms Series

NOW Classrooms, Grades K–2

By Meg Ormiston, Beth Hatlen, Kristy Hopkins, Kirstin McGinnis, Lissa Blake and Nicole Ring

NOW Classrooms, Grades 3–5

By Meg Ormiston, Sheri De Carlo, Sonya Raymond, Grace Kowalski and Justin Gonzalez

NOW Classrooms, Grades 6–8

By Meg Ormiston, Lauren Slanker, Jennifer Lehotsky, Megan K. Flaherty, Janice Conboy and Whitney Cavanagh

NOW Classrooms, Grades 9–12

By Meg Ormiston, Scott D. Parker, Tom Lubbers, Gretchen Fitzharris, Ellen K. Lawrence and Katie N. Aquino

NOW Classrooms, Leader’s Guide

By Meg Ormiston, Cathy Fisher, Jamie Reilly, Courtney Orzel, Jordan Garrett, Robin Bruebach, Steve M. Griesbach and Becky Fischer

About Solution Tree

For nearly 20 years, Solution Tree ( has worked to transform education worldwide, empowering educators to raise student achievement. With more than 30,000 educators attending professional learning events and more than 4,260 professional development days in schools each year, Solution Tree helps teachers and administrators confront essential challenges in schools. Solution Tree has a catalog of 515 titles, hundreds of videos and online courses and is the creator of Global PD, an online tool that facilitates the work of professional learning communities. Follow @SolutionTree on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about Solution Tree.


Solution Tree

Erica Dooley-Dorocke

800.733.6786 ext. 247