Finding the Right Tools

Guest blog post by Rachelle Dene Poth, Learning Ambassador

There are a tremendous amount of classroom resources available to help students learn and teachers teach. Supplemental materials can be found within course textbooks,​ an online search or by using teacher or student created resources. Through a simple online search, within seconds, teachers can locate websites, images, documents, games, videos, and other media formats. What seems like such a simple process, presents challenges for choosing the most beneficial and relevant materials that will enable students to ​learn the material​ and help teachers to assess ​student learning.

How do we face these challenges? We can start with building relationships to better understand student needs and backgrounds. Starting with relationships will enable teachers to provide learning experiences which foster each student’s opportunity for growth and learning ​in​ ways that meet their individual needs at their own pace.

Test Your SAMR Skills

While teachers may be excited by the potential of technology in their classroom, it can still be intimidating. Even hearing success stories and accessing example lessons can be overwhelming and leave them wondering “Where do I even start?”.

For many, the best way to start is to start an existing unit, lesson and/or task they’ve done with students before and are confident with. When they are already familiar with the content, it can minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed and make it easier for them to see the potential to integrate technology.

This approach can often be complimented by the SAMR tech integration model (substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition). If you're not already familiar with it, be sure to check out our complete SAMR course. For now, let's take a peek at this example from the Tech Integration Strategies learning module using the subject of narrative writing:

  • Substitution
    With substitution, a teacher would have students type the work using a word processing program rather than handwriting it.
  • Augmentation
    In augmentation, the students would not only type the work, but use built in tools such as spell check and online resources or text tools for formatting the look of the text.
  • Modification
    To move to the modification of the task, students could use an online multi-media tool to collaboratively create a piece of writing with other classmates.
  • Redefine
    To completely redefine the task, students could try collaboratively constructing a story online using something like Twitter. Students would have to devote the entire story with that limitation of 140 characters. Editing and revisions are also made online, and the final product is produced and published in that online format. Maybe even as a blog where additional classmates can post feedback.

This example is pretty clear on how technology used with students should not simply be an add on, but rather infused throughout the learning process. However, it's not always so easy to see the difference between the different stages or components of SAMR.

To help ensure teachers are successful, Atomic Learning recently launched a SAMR Assessment that focuses on helping teachers gauge their own comprehension and application of each of the four levels of the SAMR model.

The assessment provides quiz-style insights and feedback designed to help teachers learn how to identify, create, and apply each of the levels of SAMR in their classroom, AND includes a listing of learning resources aligned to each of the four SAMR components.

Want to see how you do on the assessment? Simply login using your institution's method of access and vist to begin.

(Don't have access? Let's Talk!)

A Focus on Making the Most of Available Technology

Without relevant professional development, available technology will most likely not be used to its fullest potential. Help ensure teachers, staff, and students are keeping up and fully utilizing available tools by providing on-demand learning resources focused on effective use of technology in instruction and learning.

Sample topics include:

How Hoonuit Can Benefit Your District: Curriculum & Tech

Hoonuit by Atomic Learning offers professional learning designed to meet the unique needs of schools and districts—including top concerns that curriculum and staff development, as well as technology integrationists, tech directors and library staff members, may have.

We've gathered a few of our favorites, that we thought you might be interested in:

Curriculum & Staff Development
Ensure your educators have the knowledge, skills, and confidence necessary to provide engaging, meaningful learning experiences with resources on:
   -  Writing Effective Learning Outcomes
   -  Differentiation Techniques and Basics
   -  Assessment of Learning: How Do They Know?
   -  21st Century Skills Concepts

Technology Integrationists
Help support the unique needs of teachers with resources focused on the effective use of technology in the classroom, including:
   -  Tech Integration Strategies
   -  Go Anywhere with Virtual Reality
   -  Coding in the Classroom

Technology Directors
Without relevant support, even the best laid tech plans can go awry. Ensure teachers, staff, and students are fully utilizing available tools on:
   -  Information Security Best Practices
   -  Being Savvy Online
   -  Software/Hardware How-to Resources

Librarians & Media Specialists
Libraries often serve as a go-to-resource. Help library staff to better support students with on-demand learning resources on:
   -  Research Paper Basics: MLA, APA & Chicago Style
   -  What Makes a Good Researcher?
   -  Avoiding Plagiarism

10 Ideas to Get Started with Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Jumping into the world of Virtual Reality (VR) begins with a basic understanding of what it is. To start, imagine swimming around the ocean, admiring colorful fish, only to turn around to find yourself face-to-face with a shark…

Now imagine students having this same experience while standing in your classroom.

Virtual reality provides teachers the ability to provide an immersive experience where learners can feel as if they are living the content that you are teaching.  THAT is student engagement.

While it’s important to understanding that the difference between reality and virtual reality can be a fine line, particularly for younger students to understand, it is a powerful tool to bring intense learning experiences into the classroom.

To help you get started with simple ways to use virtual reality with students, we’ve gathered a list of ten popular virtual reality tools, apps, and resources together in one place.

Ready to see what’s possible? Read on!


Nearpod is a mobile learning platform that allows teachers to create and sharing engaging, interactive lessons with their class and collect real time feedback from students. With Nearpod, 360 photos can easily be added into lessons with the click of a button—allowing students to be immersed into the learning content.

A few of our favorite locations to explore within Nearpod include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Anemone Reef, Flaming Crown at Dusk in Melbourne Australia, and Santorini Greece. Interested in trying it yourself? Check out this sample lesson for a firsthand look.

Related resource: Nearpod Training



Watching videos will never be the same! YouTube™ now offers a variety of virtual reality experiences using 360 videos—see that directional arrow in the upper right corner of the above screen capture? It can be used to change the viewers’ perspective, and, in the sample shown, walk with a Titanosaur dinosaur.

With as many as 360 videos uploaded daily, it can be difficult to sort which are appropriate for classrooms.  For a few of our favorites, check out this playlist of 50+ videos to bring an immersive learning experience into your lessons. Included are swimming with sharks, flying in a fighter jet, and, of course, walking with dinosaurs.

Related resource: YouTube™ for Educators

8 Technologies to Watch

It’s no secret that technologies come and go. In fact, the ever-changing technological landscape makes it incredibly difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest tech trends, let alone plan how new tools can be used to enhance instruction.

The recent 2016 Teaching with Technology Survey, asked participants at educational institutions across the country to predict which new technologies they saw having the greatest impact on education in the next decade.

Interested in which tools made the cut? Here’s a few of their top choices:

  • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
    Topping the list were augmented and virtual reality, one of the fastest growing trends in educational technology today. Beyond the cool factor, much of the appeal for education is the ability to go farther and dive deeper into a topic by not just telling students about it, but letting them experience it.

    One of the questions that comes up for those new to virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) is the difference between the two. The short answer is that VR allows you to completely immerse yourself as if you were magically teleported to an alternate location. AR, on the other hand, adds a layer on top of real life—for example viewing a 3D beating heart layered over an Anatomy textbook.

Related Resources:
10 Ideas to Get Started with Virtual Reality
Go Anywhere with Virtual Reality 
Getting Started with Augmented Reality

  • 3D Printing
    Possibly fueled by the already popular Maker Movement, 3D printing ranked as one of the top trends to watch. The option of 3D printing also is being fueled by the demand for STEM focused education, as it allows students the opportunity to apply mathematical processes and engineering concepts while developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills to create something tangible. (And its pretty darn cool, that probably helps.)

Related Resources:
SketchUp for 3D Printing using Google SketchUp
Students as Digital Creators 

5 Tough Questions to Ask When Implementing 1:1 or BYOD

Has your school gone 1:1? Or are headed that way? Often, with technology comes a great deal of change, a fair amount of resistance, and an abundance of questions. However, when done right, a 1:1 is well worth the effort.

To help ensure your school or district is set up for success from the start, we’ve compiled a few quick tips to set expectations and minimize potential pitfalls.

  1. What’s the Goal of the Initiative?
    We’re big fans of educational technology, but the addition of technology as a standalone isn’t enough. It’s important to set a goal for your devices that is focused on learning. In the words of Andrew Marcinek, a school CIO and former Director of Technology, in a recent Edutopia article:

    “A 1:1 environment should be the goal of every learning institution; however, this is not about devices, it's about access. I imagine every school superintendent, principal, and teacher would agree that it is in their best interest to provide their students with the best access to the most current, scholarly information available.”

    Without a focus on learning, a 1:1 initiative has the potential to be underutilized as well as fail to ultimately impact student success. If you haven’t already set such a goal, take a hard look at the technology in your district, 1:1 initiative or not, and see where changes can be made.

  2. How Will You Ensure Devices are Used?
    As with any initiative or project, there is a learning curve. Keep this in mind, and support your teachers’ success with professional development opportunities and time to integrate new tools into their lessons. It’s also important to not demand that the devices be used at all times, while still encouraging use when appropriate.

    Setting up expectations, supporting teachers with needed training, and checking in with them on how it’s going and any further professional development needs can make all the difference.

    Related Resource: How Do We Plan with Purpose? A Look at Effective PD
  3. What is the Devices’ Role in the Classroom?
    A device is no replacement for a quality teacher, and it shouldn’t be treated as one. A device is a tool, just like an old chalkboard, not-quite-as-old whiteboard, or a calculator. Work with teachers to make them feel comfortable with the device, understand the benefits the available technology provides, and provide practical ideas that show how the device can be successfully used in the classroom.

    Related resource: Evaluating Technology Resources

#RealityCheck - Guest Blog Post

Guest blog post by Atomic Learning customer Judy Yi, a Professor at Dallas Baptist University in Texas. You can see more great posts from Judy and others at DBU's ProfHelp Blog.

Several years ago, I read an article in the New York Times that placed Apple Inc. on the same level as a religion.  With its fanatic fans camping outside for days to purchase the newly released device and the devotion they show with Apple products, it’s not too surprising. But what is it about Apple that makes people “hypnotized” to it?
Just last month, I had the opportunity to visit Apple Inc. (the America Operations Center) in Austin with my Ed.D. K-12 cohort, and our speaker, Jon Landis, the Development Executive for educational mobility deployment in higher education and K-12 schools, shed some light on Apple’s secret formula.
Here’s a recap:
By 1997, the world wide web (www.), the Internet as we know it, was easily available and accessible to the general public. It was innovative!
However, to a student who was born in 1997, using and accessing information via the Internet is not new at all. They grew up with it and know no other world. To them, it is not an innovation; it is just a way of life.
Apple’s mental model: Internet is conventional. How can we innovate from it?
In the early 2000s, smartphones were moving into the mainstream. Checking emails and surfing the Internet with your phone was a new technology. It was cool! However, to a student born in the early 2000s, smartphones aren’t smart. It’s plainly a mobile device. They know of no such thing as a “dumb phone” that could not send emails or surf the web. For them, anything mobile-related is not innovative; it is just a way of life.

Learning Industry Leaders' Perspectives on #EdTech (As Seen in @USAToday)

Recently, Atomic Learning's CEO, Lisa Barnett, was interviewed on the state of educational technology in today's schools. Below is an excerpt from the article, Ed-Tech Pros Talk Education Transformation, as seen in USA Today.

How has technology transformed our way of looking at education?
Lisa Barnett: Kids have been using technology tools from a very young age to learn everything from counting to coding, which has created a generation of learners who are used to having information at their fingertips 24/7. The modalities they’re accustomed to are very interactive and tailored to their needs and interests. If these kids are asked to sit and listen to long periods of lecture in a classroom, how well do we think they’re going to respond? Education is transforming to respond to the needs of this new generation. Education is adapting to this new idea of personalized content. There are now many resources that offer different ways to learn the same concept, so if one method doesn’t work, another can quickly be found that will. Technology can also provide fantastic assistance in the area of accessibility and accommodations to even further meet the needs of individual learners.

How are technology products improving student outcomes in the classroom?

Lisa Barnett:Technology can be an amazing facilitator of differentiation techniques by providing additional resources and tools that will give teachers far more ways to differentiate for content, process, and product. We know that differentiated instruction can directly impact student outcomes as it tailors the educational experience to the needs of the students. Technology can also help efficiently measure student outcomes and analyze this information in new ways to provide the best learning experience possible for each individual learner.

Create a Kidblog for Your Classroom - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Ron Farrow, eLearning Contributor

While we all strive to give our students more writing opportunities every day, we struggle with how we can do so online in a safe and meaningful way. Social media can be a great tool for engaging kids in the writing process, but how can we ensure that our writing is meaningful, and that the instrument we use is safe and secure? Kidblog may be just the solution.

Using the Undo Send GMail Lab - Guest Blog Post

Guest Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

Ever hit the "Send" button on an email and instantly remember something you forgot to add? Or you just regret the email entirely?

Try the "Undo Send" lab!  Upon hitting "Send" on an email, the "Undo Send" lab will provide a banner with an "Undo" link.  Click on the link after hitting "Send" and the "Sent" message will go to your "Drafts" folder instead.  

Careful, though!  You only have a few seconds to change your mind.  Once the yellow banner disappears, the message is now "Sent" and there's no getting it back.

To add this Google Lab to your email, click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of your email screen.  Click Settings --> then the word Labs on the top row.  In the "Search for a lab" box, type in Undo Send.  Then Enable the lab.  And you're done! 

Maria Burnham is a passionate Library Media Specialist at one of our partner districts in Minnesota, Sauk Rapids-Rice. She shares her passion for technology in education with her peers in a weekly email highlighting tips and tricks to engage users in technology and Atomic Learning, which she cleverly named “Mondays with Maria.” That weekly email is where this guest blog post came from. We will continue to post Maria’s inspiration from time to time, feel free to share with others! You can follow her on twitter:

Target Instructional Needs - Guest Blog Post

Who better to speak to instruction-focused technology integration than the eLearning Contributor who developed the training on this methodology himself?


Guest Blog Post by Ron Farrow, eLearning Contributor


I think as educators we are always looking out for what will have the most impact on student learning. We want to reach every student, all the time.  When it comes to technology, most teachers are not hesitant to include technology in their instruction, they just simply do not have the time for the major learning curve that often comes with the various programs or devices.  The issue with many technology integration programs is 3-fold:

  •     Overwhelming approach with a technology focus
  •     No time for learning curve
  •     Blanket training

In the Integration series for Atomic Learning, I discuss an instruction-focused approach to technology integration. By focusing on instruction and student learning, you eliminate the fear and anxiety that comes from new programs and new devices. You also begin to eliminate the learning curve for technology. The focus is on instruction, so the technology is targeted towards a specific goal.

Google Drive View - Guest Blog Post

Guest Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

In Google Drive, remember that you can view your Drive folders and files in list view (default) or in "Grid View" if you prefer.  

One advantage to the Grid View is that you can see a preview of pictures uploaded to your Drive better than in list view.

To change to Grid View, look for the 2 x 2 grid of squares in the upper right corner of your drive screen.  

Classroom Courses Featuring Skype® and Coding Added to Training Library #skypeintheclassroom #codingintheclassroom

Did you hear? Atomic Learning recently added training courses featuring Skype® and Mystery Skype® in the Classroom as well as Coding in the Classroom to its training library.

Mystery Skype® is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype®. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

Infographic: Tech Planning vs. Zombies

Most people would rather face a zombie apocalypse than build and implement a district-wide technology initiative.

Why? Because while ideas are exciting, translating these ideas into executable, strategic goals is not only daunting, but frightening. Check out this infographic with some fun facts.

Webinar: Building Teacher Technology Competencies

You want your teachers to use technology to teach, but how do they learn what to do? Join this webinar to find out how Mineral Wells ISD is transforming their classrooms by challenging teachers with projects that integrate technology at all levels.

You'll hear first hand from Dr. Gail Haterius, Superintendent, Greg Bird, Director of Technology, and Consultant Trish Panknin about the iRam program they've put in place and how it can be replicated in your district.

The Power of Kahoot! in the Classroom - Guest Blog Post

Who better to speak to the power of using Kahoot! in the classroom than the eLearning Contributor who developed the training on Kahoot! himself?

Guest Blog Post by Ron Farrow, eLearning Contributor

Student engagement and motivation seem to be at the top of every teacher’s list when it comes to successfully reaching students. Fighting student apathy can be one of the greatest struggles a teacher can face. Luckily, technology has provided us a world of resources that allow us to engage students like never before.

One of my favorite web tools for adding excitement to my lessons is Kahoot!  Kahoot is a web tool that allows you to create a fun game environment for many of your lesson objectives.  You can use it to start a discussion, survey your students, or even assess and review lesson content. The students' devices become their personal game pads, immersing them in the competitive battle to answer quickly and score the most points. After sharing this with so many teachers, this is the one tool that they will come back to me and report their students are actually requesting to review. If you’re looking for a way to add a little more excitement to your lesson, to engage students on another level, try Kahoot. It's such a powerful tool for reaching students.

Watch the series Ron developed on Kahoot! now!

I started as a music teacher for the Farmington School District in 2002, where I taught 5th and 6th grade music as well as High School Percussion. As a music teacher, I had the opportunity to experiment with many forms of technology in the classroom including smart boards, tablets, recording studio equipment, etc. I took this passion for technology and education to the district-wide level in 2010 as part of a leadership cadre for our district, then, in 2012, I became the Educational Technology Facilitator for the district. I joined the Cape Girardeau School District in the Summer of 2013.

I believe technology is the future of education.  But it's more about the change in instruction than the devices themselves. We are in a very exciting time for education! It can be scary to have such a paradigm shift in teaching. However, students now have tools to access a world of information that was previously inconceivable. Through technology, we can foster more creative learning environments, differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every student, and create productive, responsible, digital citizens for future generations.

Add Images into Google Forms - Guest Blog Post

Guest Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

I recently came across this article about adding an Image into your Google Forms!

So awesome, I just had to share!

Atomic Learning has many, many wonderful tutorials on using Google Forms; check out the list of videos here!


Maria Burnham is a passionate Library Media Specialist at one of our partner districts in Minnesota, Sauk Rapids-Rice. She shares her passion for technology in education with her peers in a weekly email highlighting tips and tricks to engage users in technology and Atomic Learning, which she cleverly named “Mondays with Maria.” That weekly email is where this guest blog post came from. We will continue to post Maria’s inspiration from time to time, feel free to share with others! You can follow her on twitter:

The Hour of Code is Coming - Join in December 8-14

Mobile and Beyond: McAllen ISD supports district-wide tech initiative, PD, and tech training needs

McAllen ISD, a district with 1,600 full-time employees, in McAllen, Texas, initially chose Atomic Learning to support their 1:1 iPad initiative (27,000 iPads deployed to every learner, K-12, plus staff). The district has since learned the importance of the Atomic Learning resources to not only support their mobile initiative, but to also expand the depth of technology training district-wide.

McAllen promotes using Atomic Learning in several ways, all of which are driving an increase in Atomic Learning usage in their district. One example of this is that during the last school year, McAllen scrapped their Career Technical Education (CTE) curriculum and transitioned to only using Atomic Learning content. Another avenue is that parent usage is climbing after an Atomic Learning-led parent liaison group. One parent shared that he took Atomic Learning's training on apps like Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, printed the certificates of completion, took those with him to a job interview, and was hired. McAllen encourages teachers to go directly to Atomic Learning for their PD rather than going outside of the district, which is also increasing their usage.

McAllen now has new direction with a new Instructional Technology Director, Ann Vega. Here are Vega's goals for Atomic Learning within MISD for her first year, in order of importance.

  1. Get all administrators trained on Atomic Learning and get them comfortable assigning training to various groups (teachers, admin. assistants, para professionals, HR, parents, and others).
  2. Get all teachers trained in Atomic Learning, especially using Google Apps for education (which has a built-in LMS)
  3. Get all teachers assigning training/projects/assessments to their students
  4. Possibly custom-uploading videos and other resources to assign training to teachers, including new teacher training and other annual mandated compliance training for reporting, such as Blood Borne Pathogens.

Ann especially wants to create user groups so she can assign training, and track it. McAllen is having great success as they continue to integrate Atomic Learning into their district.

Want to get your district on track with teacher PD and training district-wide? Contact Atomic Learning today!

Minnesota District Wins State Award in Leadership and Technology

We would like to extend our congratulations to our friends at Sauk Rapids-Rice School District for being nominated and selected as Minnesota’s 2014 TIES (Technology and Information Educational Services) Technology Leadership Team Award Recipient. The Sauk Rapids-Rice School District was selected for its innovation and positive impact on learning through technology. 

TIES noted the leadership of the Community and District, the ability to “build” community, innovative uses of technology, and successful community partnerships.

Accepting that Technology Will Fail

Last month, Dr. Joshua Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and author of the popular Technology and Learning blog, posted an encouraging post for technology professionals using Apple's less-than-perfect live streaming event on September 9, 2014 as an example. (Didn't attend? The first 27 minutes of the live video stream was not only choppy, but plagued by dual audio—voices in both English and Chinese simultaneously.)

Kim smartly uses this tech giant's embarrassing moment as a learning opportunity:

What does the Apple live streaming debacle teach us?

More than anything, we need to accept that technology will break. 

The something going wrong with technology will be the norm, not the exception.

The more we introduce technology into education, the more we will have things blow up.

This is not a reason to stop our efforts with blended learning, flipped classrooms, online courses, adaptive learning platforms, or open online learning. 

We should not stop holding synchronous online seminar classes. We should not stop creating rich media learning objects.

What we should accept is that things will go wrong. 

If Apple can't figure out how to stream their big live event we will also have instances where our learning technology fails.

He makes an excellent point on a number of levels.

At face value, we need to acknowledge that while bolstering bandwidth and providing teachers technology training will help alleviate issues, things can go wrong—that's the nature of learning, of trying new things, of pushing forward.