Category Archives: Uncategorized

Common Core State Standards Tidbits: Episode 2

After the webinar I overviewed in CCSS Tidbits – Episode 1, I did some additional research to gather more information about the CCSS.  Below is a collection of links that you might find helpful as you move forward with your Common Core implementation.  I have also linked to this great infographic on becoming a Common Core Ninja!  For anyone interested, I am working on pulling together some resources for developing and using infographics in the classroom, so stay tuned!

Explanation of the Standards
This is a sample document that shows how the standards are broken down, which grade levels teach to the standard, the DOK level of the standard, what it might look like in the classroom, and much more.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a full copy of the book for free, however, you can get a full copy from
The North Carolina State Board of Education has developed a site with a great deal of resources, including an explanation of the standards “unpacked.”  They also have tool for implementing the standards.
ASCD has pulled together several great resources that provide an explanation of the CCSS as well as tools to help teachers implement.
If you’re a visual learner like me, you will love LearnZillion’s visual representation of the standards!
COREpedia is a resource tool to assist you in the understanding and implementation of the Common Core State Standards
Teacher Professional Development
This site is AMAZING!  They have a great deal of videos that will help teachers implement the common core   standards.
Pearson has done an excellent job at developing some top notch professional development resources! Teachers can watch webinars, they can access practice tests, find information for ELL students, and learn about rigor, instruction, assessment and much, much, more!
Classroom Tools / Resources
This is a nice collection of common core resources for 5th grade.
An CCSS integration tool that allows you to plan and track standards in your lesson plans.
“We Are Teachers”  has a nice collection on Pinterest for Common Core including great visuals, infographics, and other images.
This is a comprehensive site for all things Common Core including curriculum, assessments, PD, Videos, and tons more!
Curriculum Alignment
This sight helps schools ease the transition into Common Core.  They have excellent explanations of the   shifts taking place in both math and ELA.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills has additional information and resources on how to align to the CCSS and meet the needs of our 21st century learners.
Scholastic has pulled together some really great lesson plans, glossary of terms for teachers, Nonfiction & Literature lists, info on assessment, and professional development tools for teachers.

Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and blogger. Check out her blog at eMINTS Classroom Strategies where she shares her thoughts on learning theories, teaching tips and strategies, practical classroom applications, and reflections on her journey to continue learning. This post was originally published on August 5, 2013.

The Pioneers…

PictureFor me there is nothing better than introducing the eMINTS program to people for the first time!  Last week I had the privilege of doing just that.  Our national PD4ETS (or train-the-trainer program) held its kickoff!

The PD4ETS participants will bring the eMINTS program to districts in Alabama and Arkansas.  The comprehensive eMINTS program is two years long, during which teachers learn strategies for embedding research-based, best practices into the classroom.  The results of the eMINTS program go beyond test scores and meeting the Common Core, student engagement in eMINTS classrooms goes up as students learn to think critically, build community, question, and problem solve.

A key element of the eMINTS program is job-embedded coaching and mentoring.  Teachers attend eMINTS professional learning throughout the year, but they also received visits from their instructional specialist.  This personalized time to coach, collaborate, consult, and mentor is what sets the eMINTS professional learning program apart from other professional development.
During eMINTS training,  pedagogy is modeled and teachers spend time reflecting on practice and thinking about how strategies will transfer back to the classroom.   During a recent training, Dr. Kim Hendon, PD4ETS from Roanoke City Schools, made the statement, “No teacher wakes up and says today I want to be mediocre.”  eMINTS strategies help educator do their best everyday!

One of the primary goals of the PD4ETS kickoff is to give participants a strong foundation for what eMINTS is all about and what it can do for their students and teachers. We wantto develop a deep understanding of our instructional model; high-quality lesson design, inquiry-based learning, community of learners, all powered by technology.  After the three days of face-to-face time, the trainers then return to their districts and are supported virtually throughout the year.

eMINTS Instructional Model
The eMINTS Instructional Model

To begin developing relationships with the PD4ETS participants,  I sent out a survey prior to their training. Their responses helped me customize the training experience.   When looking at survey responses, I discovered that the participants really wanted to experience the Gateway Arch.   With the help of some colleagues, we designed an inquiry experience and task using the Arch as our subject.

The Inquiry Experience…

The heart of inquiry learning is questioning.  One strategy eMINTS shares with our teachers is the Question Focus Strategy or QFT.  Using this quote about pioneers, “It’s not easy being a pioneer, but oh is it fascinating.”  the PD4ETS participants participated in the entire QFT process. Ranking and selecting their top questions, they began to guess what the task would be.

“We are going to do a presentation about pioneers.”

“We are going to have a wax museum.”

Higher-level thinking is what eMINTS is all about!  I revealed the task-“Create a symbol, motto, quote/tagline to motivate and celebrate your eMINTS implementation. What is your “Why?” for implementing eMINTS?” Silence, excitement, and the comments “That’s hard”, “How much time do we have?”, and “Let’s get going!”

Off to the Arch we went.  The process was to use the questions created during the QFT to explore the pioneers. The parallel, they are the pioneers for their districts.  We arrived at the Gateway Arch Museum and set to work~reading displays, taking photos, asking more questions… There were no specific directions on how they needed to convey their message.  This added to the creativity, differentiation, and thinking involved in completing the task. (This is sometimes frustrating for both student and adult learners.)  These school leaders awed me with their final products and explanations:

Quote on a plaque: We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore. -J.W.Powell
“We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore.” -J.W.Powell
A tool used by pioneers
A tool used by pioneers. It had multiple functions. There were many connections to the image.


On this spot monumental dreams come to life!

Participant Video: My eMINTS Project

To truly understand the power of eMINTS, you have to experience it!  Once you experience eMINTS it is hard to imagine teaching any other way!  The excitement and innovation that comes with constructing your own knowledge is empowering and life changing!  eMINTS is about empowering and changing the lives of teachers, who then change the lives of students!

The eMINTS National Center offers many professional learning opportunities.  Visit the eMINTS National Center website for more information!

Carmen Marty is an eMINTS instructional specialist and Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at Carmen’s blog, At Least One Thing.

Easy Screencasting With Screencast-O-Matic

A few weeks ago I was facilitating iPad trainings and had searched for resources to support the teachers in using the iPad as a production and collaboration tool. I found a lot of demonstration videos on YouTube to show how to use different apps that we were highlighting in the sessions and I linked those resources on the training site.

As we worked through the session there were certain iPad skills I suggested and demonstrated, but then after leaving the session I realized I didn’t have any resources linked for those skills that participants could refer back to. That is where Screencast-O-Matic came in. Some colleagues introduced me to the computer web 2.0 tool, Screencast-O-Matic and I knew it was just the fix for my participants need. I signed up for a free account, followed the directions on the screen, quickly created a screencast, uploaded it to YouTube (also downloaded to my laptop as an MP4), and made a link to the “how-to” video on our Weebly training site. It took about 15 minutes from start to finish which I am sure will be even quicker the next time through.

As you can see in my video below, it includes a screencast of the iPad screen (created using Reflector to mirror my iPad image on my computer), my voice, and a video of me talking (not really necessary but I was playing with all the features). I felt like the tool was very easy to figure out once I click the “Start Recording” button with on-screen directions.

The free version allows for 15 minutes of recording time, recording the screen and webcam, publishing to YouTube or downloading as MP4. One challenge in the free version to be aware of is that you can’t go back and re-record but have to start all over if you make a mistake. Not a big deal if you have a script to follow and have practiced what you are demonstrating before you begin recording. This seems to be everything I need for now, but some of the options and features of the pro version includes: no watermark, unlimited recording time, editing tools, webcam only recording, the ability to publish to Google Drive/Vimeo/Box/Dropbox, and more.

In those iPad sessions, other things we discussed was how to empower learners. One way the group talked about was giving students access to resources and allowing them to decide if and when they might need them. Creating screen-casts and posting them on a teacher website or WebQuest would be a great way to offer optional scaffolding for learners to support their thinking and self-directedness. Students could even create their own screen-casts and post them to a class/school YouTube or SchoolTube account so that everyone could benefit from their expertise and knowledge.

Screencast-O-Matic isn’t the only screen-casting software available, but it is simple to use and the free account offers a lot of features and options. What’s your favorite screen-casting tool? How have you and your students used screen-casting software to support thinking and learning?

Additional Resources
How to Record Your iPad w/Screencast-O-Matic
Screencast-O-Matic Help Channel

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.

Encourage Creativity and Innovative Thinking: Genius Hour

“Genius Hour” and “20% Projects” have been showing up all over my PLN in the past months…Twitter, blog posts, Pinterest, Facebook and more. As I read more about this instructional practice I was reminded of a 60 Minutes show I watched a few years back when they were at Google’s home office. The show focused on highlighting the environment and working policy Google developed designed to support staff to be as creative as possible. This policy allows staff to spend 20% of their work week on the “pet project” of their choice. They believe that giving that time will encourage creativity and breed innovative ideas. It has been claimed that half of Google’s innovative “products” have come from this 20% of time.
Being intrigued by the idea of integrated time for creativity, I took a bit of R&D time (maybe we should call it my “Genius Hour” or “20% Project”) to dig a little deeper and found that 3M has been doing this even longer than Google, and HP even longer; possibly as far back as 1939. They can all argue they were the first but what’s more important is that we have benefited with products such as Gmail, Post-It notes, and HTML, all coming from that structured/unstructured time.What’s even better, this ideas has made it into the education world. “20% Projects” and “Genius Hour” are rooted in constructivism where authentic learning is intrinsically motivating to students. Teachers implementing this instructional practice have created structured unstructured learning time. No matter what they call this time, all have constructivist beliefs at the core. All require that learning is relevant to life. Projects require students to learn concepts at deeper levels. This type of open-ended, project-based learning requires student to question and explore, and the most effective projects end with a product and require students to present and reflect on new learning. Teachers that want students to get the most from this experience become the guide on the side and support students to find direction, develop action plans, research effectively, revisit what they are learning and what they still need to do to accomplish their goal, and efficaciously present their projects and new ideas Vann Hinder.

Kevin Brookhouser from the I Teach, I Think blog has some great strategies, management tips, and classroom practices that could help you implement your own “20% Projects”. In listening to his Radical Autonomy: Giving Your Students 20% Time Google Hangout, it is obvious he has it figured out. In this presentation, he shares best practices and has defined the steps that can help projects like his to be successful beginning with prepare parents, students, and administrators, to having the student make final presentation very similar to Ted Talks. Visit his site to learn more about his implementation steps for successful “20% Project” and check out his TedX Monterrey Talk Don’t Call it a Classroom which can be found on his blog. His site also includes student examples and instructional support for implementing your own “20% Projects”.

“Genius Hours” and “20% Projects” seem to align perfectly with my first educational experiences in Montessori school, my educational beliefs as a teacher, and eMINTS, my job and my love. It is intriguing enough to wish I was back in the classroom so that I could try and implement such a progressive idea. Exploring this innovative idea in learning where I can help learners find their own “genius”, expertise, and passion has me thinking…could this work with professional development? My wheels are turning; what about yours?

To learn more about “Genius Hours” or “20% Projects” check out these great resources and experts on the topic.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.

Minecraft in the Classroom: A Real-world Example

You may have seen the above video floating around from the PBS Idea Channel, posing the question of whether the video game Minecraft is the “Ultimate Education tool“. With over 200,000 views and over 6500 likes, it got me wondering how many of these viewers have actually seen Minecraft being used in the classroom? Before last week, I hadn’t — which made a recent opportunity even more exciting.  Part of our e-Learning for Educators team was invited to visit a local elementary school to see how they’ve been using Minecraft — and what I saw was pretty inspiring.

To give you an idea of what it is like to play Minecraft, it has been described as “first person legos” mixed with “The Sims” (and maybe with a few other games thrown in). The game is considered a “sandbox” game with an open world, giving players a large amount of freedom when it comes to playing the game.  In the standard version of Minecraft, there are four different modes to the game: survival, creative, adventure, and hardcore. While not all of the modes of the standard version are ideal for educational use, there is an educational version of the game called MinecraftEdu that was created for teachers by teachers.

During our visit, we observed a second grade class using the standard Minecraft‘s “creative mode” to collaboratively build an interactive world. The students were divided into four groups, with each group being assigned a time period to create within Minecraft together — but each at their own computer. When creating their worlds, they had to think about what to include and what to build, making sure to justify why they included what they did.

Students can leave signs for other players.
Players have the ability to leave signs throughout their worlds. In this project, students used signs to ask questions or to clarify what they were building.

Here’s a little rundown of the time periods and what I saw:

  • 1850: I learned from a couple students that they were currently reading the Little House on the Prairie books, which I believe was the inspiration for this time period. This world was complete with a dry goods store, pigs (and other farm animals) and other period appropriate creations. One student in this group was building a “dugout” house and confidently explained to me what it was and why it was there! 🙂
  • 1950: The school we visited was built around1950, so students had to think about how their city was different in 1950. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of this time period.
  • 2013: Students had to recreate Columbia in the present. I was given a “tour” of the school as it is today (in Minecraft, of course) and the local grocery store (I think it was a Gerbes). I believe I even spotted the local mall!
  • Future: I didn’t get an exact date for this time period, but I think it may have been  around 50 years in the future. According to their teacher, this was the time period the students had the hardest time with. I did see buildings equipped with “solar panels” (while Minecraft doesn’t have solar panels yet within the game, they designated materials to stand in for solar panels) and other evidence of a future of renewable energy, giving you an idea of how this project is getting their mental wheels turning.
Future: The glass ceiling of this building was meant to represent solar panels.

Watching the engagement in this classroom was amazing — the students enjoyed what they were doing and, based on my conversations with them, they were definitely practicing some higher-level thinking. This doesn’t mean there were no hitches. At times, it seemed difficult to get them to stop building in their worlds. Despite these minor issues, I could really see the future of this software having a place in education. While I’m not sure about it being the “ultimate tool”, Minecraft is proving to be a unique and rewarding addition to the classroom.

This is just one way of how Minecraft is being used with students. Check out MinecraftEdu‘s Real-world Example page to see more great ways this software is already being used in the classroom.

What are your thoughts on Minecraft as the “Ultimate Education Tool”? In what ways do you see yourself using Minecraft with your students?

[This post was provided by Zoë Hyatt, an instructional developer for the eMINTS National Center and eLearning for Educators.]

My Conference Highlights #emints

While back in the office reflecting on this past week, I must admit I was sad to see the eMINTS National Conference come to an end. All of the presentations I attended were really excellent and truly inspiring.  If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year, I highly encourage you make it next year. Conferences always tend to re-spark my love of education — I leave with so many fresh ideas and tools, it would be impossible to share them all in one blog post. We promise to share these great ideas, tools and more with you in this blog over the next few months but, for now, here are my top four moments from the conference:


  • PictureThursday Keynote Speaker, Ken Shelton: Ken spoke about “Generation Now”, focusing on three themes: Information Literacy, Digital Citizenship, and Publication and Collaboration. Not only was his presentation informative, his slides were beautifully designed and well thought out. A hot topic of the conference came from this session when Ken brought up “selfies”, sharing a video spoof on Instagram to remind students that, once you post a photo online, it’s out there and there is no going back.  For those who don’t know, a “selfie” is a picture taken of yourself that is usually intended to be uploaded to a social networking site.
  • Friday Keynote Speaker, Howie DiBlasi: Dr. Howie went over the habits of highly effective 21st century classrooms, at one point posing the question of whether we were ready for the next generation of students. His presentation was fast-paced and fun, sharing many inspirational videos and current tools to help us prepare students for the changing world we live in. His presentation inspired some great ideas for future blog posts on building 21st century skills, so keep checking back for this in the next couple weeks.
  •  Falling Falling, Falling (A Model Lesson): This session was discussed in the last post, so I won’t go into too much detail at this time — but this was one of my favorite sessions of the conference. Doug Caldwell and Glen Westbroek presented a model eMINTS lesson with the session attendees as the students. We got to set up tracks of dominos and record how fast they fell, based on various factors. It was super neat to see, from the student perspective, how current online tools can be used in a hands-on lesson that promotes real-world thinking and uses the eMINTS instructional model. A big bonus of this session is that they provided everything you need to implement this lesson in your own classroom via a LiveBinder, which you can access here.
  • QR codes and the Four C’s: One of the last sessions on Friday, I ‘d consider this to be one of the more energetic sessions I attended. Shelly Tarter gave us an interactive presentation on QR codes and how they can be used with the 4 C’s of education:  Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. We got hands-on experience using QR codes, learned the difference between static and dynamic QR codes, and brainstormed possible uses in groups — all while having fun. You could tell this presentation was a favorite by how the conversation continued long after it ended.  Shelly put together a great Weebly site for this presentation, which you can view here.

These were only a few of my favorite moments of the conference, but every attendee had a different schedule with a different experience. Question: What were some the highlights of your own 2013 eMINTS Conference experience?

[This post was provided by Zoe Hyatt, an instructional developer for the eMINTS National Center and eLearning for Educators.]

GIS and geo-literacy

During this wintry weather, I’ve been finding myself looking at a lot of weather and transportation maps to assess my work and travel situation — and it got me thinking about maps in the classroom.  When I was in school, over ten years ago, I got very little exposure and use out of maps, aside from the few classes that did use them regularly. However, this was a different time in education — Google Maps didn’t exist (remember when MapQuest was the primary way to get directions online?) and Google Earth was but a twinkle in someone’s eye. 😉  As an educator, you may find yourself asking:
With all the technology available today, what quality tools are available to advance geo-literacy in your classroom?

Besides common web mapping services like Google Maps, one way to expose your students to geography and other geographical data online is to bring GIS software into the classroom. In fact, the Missouri Geographic Alliance, through the University of Missouri, has signed on to provide all Missouri K-12 schools and educators with access to ESRI’s GIS software called ArcGIS (and I’m confident that other states are doing the same). The first step is to request the software, and ESRI even provides a free online training course to help you get the most out of the software.

Arcgis geocoding service inside Excel... Sweet! #esriuc

Unsure of what GIS is? As described by wikipedia, a Geographical Information System, or GIS, is “a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data”. In a nutshell, a GIS merges maps and statistical data with database technology, allowing you to view and interpret data in new ways. ESRI provides a good, easy to understand overview here. This type of software and data pairs great with inquiry and project-based learning, adding depth to assignments and simulations with geographical context and real data.

A real example of how GIS can be used in the classroom comes from Barbaree Duke, a middle school teacher in Raleigh, NC.  She had her students use GIS to create a project based on the travels of Mark Twain, using math skills to measure distances using the tools found in ERSI’s software. They then demonstrated social studies and technology skills by using the database to find locations around the world that Twain had visited. How cool is that?! For this lesson and more ideas from Barbaree, check out her GIS in Education blog.

As the above example demonstrated, GIS can be used in many different subject areas, not just social studies and geography, and can be paired with many other online tools, such as blogs, websites, and more. GIS can be used by your students to:

  • visualize historical events
  • explore the social and mathematical characteristics of demographic information
  • study climate change
  • design cities
  • take inventory of geological samples
  • plan ecological growth models
  • catalog archaeological sites
  • map travel logs/journals
  • map the setting/locations of a book
  • explore the locations and spread of diseases/illnesses
  • create travel routes for a delivery business
  • explore natural phenomena, such as volcanos and earthquakes
  • explore the habitats of animals and/or humans

This is a small list of the things you can do with GIS software. What about you? In what ways could you use GIS software to spruce up a new or existing lesson?

For more information on GIS and how to use it in the classroom, Missouri educators can visit All other areas, you can check out the National Geographic Network of Alliances for Geographic Education community and click on your state to get more information.

Taking Your Browser With You

During a collaboration session with a colleague, I recently reconnected with Google Chrome. He shared with me how his teachers and students are utilizing their Google account and the Chrome Web Store to install apps and bring new tools into the classroom. I had always used Chrome as a back-up internet browser, but it never occurred to me that it might be a valuable classroom tool. As a life long learner, I had to learn more. I found myself exploring and installing several apps and extentsions (a.k.a plug-ins) in order to locate tools that would enhance classroom instruction.

To get started exploring some of these tools…

  1. Install Google Chrome
  2. Click on settings and log-in to Chrome using a Google account.
  3. Go to Chrome Web Store and begin exploring

During this investigation, I discovered similar apps commonly installed on phones and tablets that could now be accessed from Chrome (Edmodo, Prezi, Voice Thread, Typing Tutor, etc).  Once the applications are installed it creates a collection of icons that launches the website or program australian online casinos pokies right from the browser. After I installed several free educational apps, it was time to sync it to the “cloud”.

To get started syncing your browser settings…

  1. Click on settings  button from within the Chrome Browser
  2. Choose “Advanced Settings” to choose what features of the browser you would like saved.
  3. Click “Ok”.
    **Chrome Sync saves your personalized browser features to the web and allows you to access them from Google Chrome on any computer.

I now understand how students and teachers could benefit from using this feature in the classroom. Below are just a few ideas that might assist with classroom instruction…

  • Chrome can be downloaded and installed on any machine and most devices.
  • Any bookmarking that is done in the classroom can be saved and accessed after school.
  • Students with special needs can click on a resource”s icon instead of typing in the URL
  • Students can easily locate tools to assist them with homework  (ex: Periodic Table, Astrology Charts, Unit Conversions, Create Timelines, edit images, create presentations and more).

While I am still exploring and learning more and more each day, I look forward to hearing how other educators might utilize this tool.

How might students and teachers benefit from using a browser that can sync their settings and allow them twenty-four hour access?


This post was provided by Amy Blades, an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Participating in the eMINTS Conversation

Maybe the biggest benefit of the Web is the fact that conversations are happening everywhere about almost any topic. The eMINTS community is no different. We have many opportunities for conversation within our many web-based outlets.

This blog is one of those outlets. Commenting or submitting your own blog posts makes Networked Teaching & Learning a perfect location for finding new ideas and resources as well as interacting with others in the eMINTS community. Even if you don’t submit a post or comment, NT&L offers teachers a variety of teaching ideas, online resources, and updates from the eMINTS National Center.

Like many of you, eMINTS has a presence on Facebook. Facebook has made it easier and easier to connect personally and professionally with various networks of people. eMINTS meets you there with a Facebook Page and Group. Both spaces keep you updated as well as allow you to connect to other educators in the eMINTS network.

For those who prefer the professional connections of LinkedIn, eMINTS has you covered there as well. Join the eMINTS Group at LinkedIn as a way to make connections with like-minded educators in a completely professional network.

Two other places to follow eMINTS-related discussions are on Twitter and Tumblr. My Twitter account mostly shares links from this blog, but I will occasionally engage conversations under #edtech and #edchat hashtags. If you’re a Tumblr user, be sure to follow the posts at the eMINTS Tumblr, primarily set up to share resources.

Finally, I will beginning to host Google Hangouts in an attempt to find new and exciting web applications for classroom use. If you are interested in participating in these Hangouts,  add me to your G+ circle and message me about inclusion in the Hangout. Even if the Hangout fills up (there’s a limit of nine participants), it’s an opportunity to chat with other eMINTS educators, possibly setting up your own Hangouts.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.