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How can we provide professional development to accommodate the busy schedules of all the teachers in our district? This was the question that prompted the development of the district's forary into online courses. Starting about three years ago, Mr. Vince Condro, the district’s Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at the time, recognized that the demands of teaching are increasing while the amount of time teachers have to participate in traditional, face-to-face professional development workshops is decreasing. Condro’s solution was both simple and visionary: create online courses that teachers can access 24/7 at their convenience. Mr. Condro pioneered the first online course in the district using Google Sites since it was free and readily avaliable. Working with him, Mrs. Sandy D’Onofrio and Mrs. Tina Klar (pictured below) then created some more online courses with Google Sites to address teachers’ professional development needs. As they refined the courses, they discovered that Google Groups would allow teachers to respond to prompts and participate in online discussions with other teachers. The best part of this solution is that everything needed for an online course is contained within the site and uses Google tools that teachers are familiar with already. This made the courses a natural fit for both authors to create new course and for the participants to use it. In the summer of 2013, a wider implementation of online courses took place when about 30 elementary teachers participated in an online course on Guided Math. This really proved the power of online learning for our teachers and started a larger interest in adopting it across the district for further PD. It was obvious based on the response that this was a medium for PD that needed to be expanded and pursued. Finally, last spring the process moved to the next level when 13 teachers learned how to create their own online professional development courses using Google Sites and Google Groups. Led by Mrs. D’Onofrio and Mrs. Klar, both elementary and secondary teachers developed four online courses and an online resource. The teachers who developed the courses were: Brooke Thormahlen, Theresa Lennon, Sandy Halpin, Jennifer Clive, Shelley Bartolotti, Beth Brennan, Sarah Lamb, Rene Carone, Andrea Sandock, Judeanne Rockford, Kate Sfeir, Rebecca McFarland, Maggie Doyle, Amy Rizzuto, and Kara Bisaccia. “I am excited to bring a course that was so well received in a face-to-face workshop to a new audience. The online version of the Teach Like a Champion class will focus on reading, watching videos, and sharing reflections on specific classroom engagement techniques. It was nice to see how the course material is readily accessible both in a face-to-face workshop and in an online forum,” said Brooke Thormahlen, one of the teachers who created an online course. "I absolutely love our online courses!! Not only are the topics insightful and relevant to our curriculum, but they are easy to navigate. I am able to read and review comments my colleagues have shared at my convenience. Many times we forget a discussion that took place at a meeting, but with an online course we have the advantage of refreshing our thoughts and ideas by simply reviewing past teacher comments," commented Lisa Meyers after participating in a New Hartford Teacher Center online course. Given the success of this venture, New Hartford teachers can look forward to more opportunities for online professional development. It is a great way to participate in professional development at a time and place that works in any teacher’s busy life! Best of all, the same techniques & tools used for teacher PD might also be a nice way to experiment with introducing online learning in our own classrooms as well. If you would like to learn more about creating your own PD for colleagues or creating online courses/instruction with Google tools for use within your classroom by students, simply contact to the district Tech Team. They will be glad to assist you in getting started with using online courses in your own classroom and beyond!

 

Since Spartan Docs remains one of the top word processing tools used by students and teachers in the district, knowing the quickest and easiest ways to complete everyday tasks, such as correcting spelling errors quickly and easily, is something that anyone would agree is useful to know how to do. Unfortunately, for a quite some time, this was actually something that was missing in Spartan Docs but that has been quietly (and thankfully) added over the summer!

To use the new spell checker feature in Docs, once you are in an open document, simply click into the new Tools > Spelling… option in the Spartan Apps menus. A Spell Check window will appear along upper right hand side of your document (see screenshot below) where you can identify and resolve spelling problems. You can also use this window to add words to your own personal dictionary so they aren’t flagged as typos in the future.


As an added “power user” tip beyond the spell check window, if you don’t want to use this spell checker window but wish to manually jump between potential mistakes in the document without a lot of scrolling, you can also use the Ctrl (on a PC) or Command (on a Mac) + key to go to the next typo or Ctrl (on a PC) or Command (on a Mac) + ; key to jump to the previous typo. The cursor will simply move between them with the document and you can then right-click to fix any mistake manually in the pop-up menu that appears.

With these improvements and time saving tips, hopefully you and your students can make quick work of spelling corrections within your Spartan Docs. Try them out today and hopefully you will be powering through spelling revisions in your own documents in no time!

 
   
Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers
 
iTunes Content for Your Classroom

Are you looking for a quick, fun way to gather some formative assessment from your students? Hoping to use technology to make everyday grading a little easier? If these ideas sound appealing to you, Plickers is a perfect tool to take a look at.
 
Plickers is a combination of web service and mobile app allows you poll your class for free, without the need for student devices. Just give each student a card (a “paper clicker”), and use your smartphone to scan them to do instant checks-for-understanding, exit tickets, and more! Students choose A, B, C, or D by rotating their cards and you can scan multiple students at once. As the results are captured, the teacher gets a real-time bar graph of the results and best of all, the data is automatically saved, student-by-student, at the plickers.com website! Plickers is very cool and useful in any classroom. Take a look today!
Visit Plickers
   
 
6 Minute Science
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History

These short videos, produced by Smithsonian's Senate of Scientists, offer a closer look at all kinds of interesting topics in the world of natural history ranging from ant farms to how volcanoes breathe, to caves that hide primordial rivers and rocks, and more. Each video is shows a breadth of extraordinary research followed by a short Q&A session. Plus, new videos are added regularly to this collection so you can start tuning in today to find some great, free science content for your classroom right away!
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The New Hartford Tech Spotlight is a monthly informational e-mail newsletter published for all faculty and staff of the New Hartford Central School District by Mike Amante & Kathy Donovan. If you wish to contribute to or inquire about the newsletter, please visit here.
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