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!)

4 Hesitations Teachers Have About Tech Integration

Change is hard. And for many, it can also be scary, whether it involves technology or not. People, as a rule, tend to be creatures of habit, and even those that consider themselves to be forward-thinkers may be among those most hesitant to adopt change.

When it comes to teachers, they’ve invested considerable time in their lessons and projects, have established rubrics, and gathered concrete evidence that lessons have successfully communicated a topic to students. Because of this, they may be more resistant to change than other individuals.

To help overcome this resistance, it’s important to take the time to understand their hesitations. To help, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the most common phrases heard from teachers who are questioning if technology integration is right for their classroom:

  1. Why should I?
    While this question may be delivered in a variety of ways, it’s often fueled out of fear. Sharing the logic behind the need for technology integration, as well as supporting teachers with any necessary professional development, can provide hesitant teachers the nudge they need to take the first steps.

    An easy way to start the conversation on the need for technology integration is by focusing on the importance of ensuring students are college- and career-ready, of which technology plays a critical role. Digital technologies have become commonplace in both college and in the workplace.

Driving Teacher Buy-In: Q&A with Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

Earlier this year, we shared a blog post on how Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Texas had created and effectively implemented an Instructional Technology Implementation Plan to maximize technology integration and teacher support—a piece which involved incentive programs to encourage teacher participation by offering the opportunity to attend a regional or state education conference.

Recently, we followed up with Daniel Saenz, Information Technology Director for the district, to see how the program worked out, as well as how it could be replicated at other schools.

Atomic: Why did you decide to implement an incentive for Atomic Learning?
Saenz: Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD decided to Purchase Atomic Learning as a means of providing Technology Professional Development to our employees.  Since we have a relatively small training staff in the Technology Department, we figured it would be ideal to supplement our efforts.  However, we were not satisfied with the level of usage by our employees.  Therefore, we decided to implement an incentive program to promote the Atomic Learning usage. 

Atomic: What was the focus of the program?
Saenz: The main goal of our incentive program with regards to Atomic Learning was to increase the usage of the Atomic Learning system.  We wanted to get our teachers and staff more tech literate.  We also wanted them to use technology to facilitate teaching and learning as well as streamline the daily routines at our district.

#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.

Bottling the Energy from #EdTech Conferences

With education convention season ramping up across the country, the team at Atomic Learning has been hearing a lot of excitement and discussion around growing trends, concerns, and areas of focus in the education industry.

For many, conferences are inarguably a great place to gather ideas and learn best practices...But what happens after the conference? How do you keep the learning going year-round?

To help make the most of the great information being shared at conferences—and bottle up a bit of the excitement of these shows—we’ve pulled together some of our favorite resources on the hottest topics, including not only technology related topics such as 1:1 initiatives, but also focused resources for professional development, leadership, college-readiness, and much more.

Simply click on any of the links below that are of interest to you to preview the available resource, and contact Atomic Learning for details on how to unlock full access for your entire school or district!

1:1 Initiatives
A Brief Overview of 1:1 Classroom Training
Enhancing Communication & Collaboration with Tech
Differentiating Instruction with Technology
Device Training (including iPads, Chromebooks)
Overcoming Resistance to Change
Building an Effective Leadership Team
Safety Awareness
Mattering is the Agenda (School Culture)
Professional Development
Planning with Purpose: A Look at Effective PD
Classroom Management Strategies
Integrating the 4 Cs into Your Classroom
An Overview of Learning Methodologies
Critical Thinking & Bloom's Taxonomy
  Technology Integration
Getting Technology R.I.G.H.T.
Snapchat in Education
Minecraft and Project-Based Learning
Coding in the Classroom
Preparing for a College Workload
Choosing a Major
Time Management
Strategies for Working in a Group
Safety Awareness
  Career & Technical Education
Career Skills Training
Effective Listening
Goal Setting
Effective Presentation Design
Preparing for an Interview

How One District Maximizes Tech Integration & Teacher Support

When Daniel Saenz, the Information Technology Director at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD stepped back to reflect on where the district was at for technology Integration and teacher support, he came to the realization that they weren’t doing as much as they could. 

One of the major steps they took to execute change was the creation of the 2015-2016 Instructional Technology Implementation Plan. The plan took their intentions and put it into action, outlining three levels of proficiency needed to accomplish the instructional technology goals for the district:

Music Education: Tech Independent AND Tech Rich - Guest Blog Post

In recognition of Music in Our Schools Month, Atomic Learning invited our own Garrett Lathe to share his take on how music and technology can work together to impact the learning experience. 

Why? Because Garrett is not only on our eLearning content team, but also Artistic Director for Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota and an experienced former music educator.
Guest Post by Garrett Lathe, eLearning Senior Producer, Youth Chorale Artistic Director, and former educator.
As a veteran vocal music teacher of 17 years, I often touted the choir room as a place that was technology independent. If the electricity went out, or even worse, the wifi network tanked, I could not only keep students engaged, but also meet state and national standards by flashlight.

Classroom Project: What's for Breakfast

Since March is National Nutrition Month, and this week is National School Breakfast Week, the team at Atomic Learning wanted to take a moment to share one of our favorite projects: What’s for Breakfast.

This project promotes health literacy and supports awareness of global health issues, through the exploration of how to make sound nutritional choices about the foods we eat for breakfast. Using any spreadsheet application (example project uses Microsoft® Excel) to track and compare three unique breakfast menus.

And, the project is completely classroom-ready! Including step-by-step tutorials that walk students through creating the project, downloadable resources, and a teacher Project Activity Guide complete with student assessment rubrics and discussion questions, the project has everything you need to integrate it into the classroom and help students make conscience nutritional choices.

Using Your Notification Center - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

So many of us have laptops, and even if you don't, the technology is such that so much of our lives are intertwined.  Calendars are connected to emails, iMessage connects with our phones, any additional apps we have (for me, the biggest in Wunderlist) may remind us of things from time to time.  All of these reminders and pop-ups might become distracting or be something you DON'T want to show while you're projecting during a meeting or in a class.

Or maybe you DO want to see when an incoming mail message comes in, no matter which app you are working in.  The point is, you can control these things.  

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:

ISTE Standards for Coaches Series: Model effective tech integration

ISTE Standards for Coaches 2: Teaching, Learning and Assessments
Technology coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant and engaging learning experiences for all students.

“I don’t have time to integrate technology into my classroom.”

“I already have so much to do, I can’t add one more thing into my day.”

Digital Sticky Notes - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

For many years now, I've been a big fan of the Post-It Note.  Big, little, bright, or that familiar dull yellow, I just love to use sticky notes to help remind me (and others around me) what's going on.  

Sometimes, though, a physical sticky note doesn't work.  With my laptop, they can fall off or I just plain run out of room to put them...

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.

Using Google Chrome Extensions - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

You might be asking yourself, "What is an extension?"

Answer: an extension is a handy-dandy little tool that hangs out on the top of your Chrome browser (to the right of the URL bar), ready and waiting to help you be more efficient in your life.  

To find/obtain Chrome extensions, there are two places to look: 

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.

Saving Battery Life in OS X Mavericks - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

In Mac 10.9 (called Mavericks), one of the neat features is to now see which apps are using up the most battery.  

If you are like me and typically have multiple applications running at the same time, you might notice that your battery dies down faster.  To see which apps are taking up the most battery, click on the battery icon at the top of your screen.  You will see a message in grey that says "Collecting Power Usage Information."  

Is Your District Innovative?

If your district is taking innovative approaches to learning and PD, District Administration magazine wants to hear from you!

Districts of Distinction is a national recognition program created by District Administration magazine to honor school districts that are leading the way with new ideas that work. District Administration is looking to recognize established initiatives that are yielding quantifiable benefits, and that could be replicated by other districts.

Infographic: Teachers <3 Technology

Technology has become a pervasive tool in the classroom, as this infographic illustrates, but are teachers equipped with the skills they need to not only love technology, but use it effectively? Make sure they are prepared with Atomic Learning's award-winning online professional development and classroom resources that cover everything from software how-to questions and effective integration to mobile learning implementation and addressing the tech components of the Common Core.

Project: Water Works!

Did you know that tomorrow is World Water Day?
Created by the United Nations to raise awareness of the sustainable management of water resources, World Water Day occurs each year on March 22nd. To help recognize this important day, Atomic Learning is highlighting the Water Works! 21st Century Skills Project, which utilizes free Google™ Earth software to tour lakes and rivers around the globe that are running dry.

Getting Started with the Maker Movement

Tinkering, crafting, active learning, MacGyver-ing, whatever you call it, a wave of creativity, collaboration and invention called the Maker Movement is revolutionizing education... but what exactly IS the Maker Movement and WHY should schools care?
Atomic Learning's own Kara Gann recently sat down with Sylvia Martinez, co-author of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classsroom, a book that is often referred to as "the bible of the Maker Movement in schools," to address these questions. Interested in hearing what they had to say? We've recorded their discussion as an on-demand webinar archive which is part of the Education Eavesdrop webinar series!

Share Your Bright Spots - What's Working for You?

If you're ever looking for a truly great book about change, look no further than Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.  When I started reading Switch, I was doing so as a professional learning opportunity related to business.  Atomic Learning's entire purpose is really about helping people navigate change as they seek to unleash the power of ever changing technology in their teaching, learning and life.  Therefore, we are an organization that is constantly looking to also embrace change as we adapt to the new challenges and opportunities that learners face.

I quickly learned that Switch is far from just a business book.  It is really about better understanding how we, as humans, respond to changes in all aspects of life - from trying to adopt healthier eating or exercise to negotiating with a teenager to working with colleagues.