Thursday, September 7, 2017

Guest Blog for TCEA: Five Ways to Make Smart New School Year's Resolutions, Co Written by Dr. Roland Rios

Guest Blog for TCEA Co Written by Dr. Roland Rios
View on TCEA's Blog by clicking HERE

Five Ways to Make SMART New School Year’s Resolutions

Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31st, millions of people dream about what the new year will bring. A new year brings the hope of possibilities and a fresh start, and many of us make New Year’s resolutions and share them with others. We vow to lose weight, to spend more quality time with family, or to volunteer more often. Some resolutions we accomplish and others we don’t. Still, there is joy in the dreaming.
Educators are blessed in that we get to make New Year’s resolutions twice a year. Just as January brings hope, fall brings about the start of a new school year. While we may be a little sad to see our summer fade so quickly, we eagerly look forward to seeing our colleagues and, most importantly, our students once again. So in August, many of us make new school year’s resolutions.
This year, why not make a few of the new school year’s resolutions center around integrating technology into your classroom? Whether you’re a tech junkie, a novice, or somewhere in between, there’s always room for improvement. Our advice? Make your resolutions SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.


Make your tech goal as specific as you can. Instead of making a goal to “use technology to communicate with parents,” you could strive to “use the new Seesaw announcements feature to send reminders to parents.” Rather than saying you will “use technology to get feedback from students,” you could aim to “gather video feedback from students using Recap.”


It is much easier to monitor progress towards your resolutions if you make them measurable. (Think IEP’s.) It is more feasible to assess your results if your goal is to  “post at least one flipped lesson a week to EdPuzzle” rather than to  “flip my class.” Imagine how effortless it would be to gauge your progress on a resolution that states “I will publish one newsletter a month using Smore.”


When you set your resolution measurement, make your mark high enough to challenge yourself, but not so high there’s no way you can accomplish it. It may be lofty to say “I will tweet out something about my class every hour of every day,” but chances are that just won’t happen. Setting out to “send ten positive affirmation emails to students daily” sure would be nice, but realistically it’s far fetched. Don’t be too easy on yourself, but give yourself a goal you can be proud of when you achieve it.


It is important that your goals are meaningful. If you spend most of your technology time managing your email, then organizing your messages and reaching “inbox zero” should be a top priority. You can also focus on making day-to-day work more meaningful and integral for your students.  How can you improve their centers, presentations, or group work with regular technology use?


Set an end date or a time-frame for your resolutions. Having a deadline encourages you to complete your goal. Your long-term resolution could be to “create a Google Classroom and post three announcements and assignments by the end of the year” with the smaller goal to “post one announcement and assignment by the end of October.”
Lastly, share your resolutions with a trusted colleague, someone who will offer praise when you’re on track and a gentle nudge when you steer off course.
If you do make a SMART new school year’s technology resolution, please let us know! Tweet it out, tag @TCEA, and use the hashtag #TechResolution17.

Guest Blog For Primo Toys: How to Integrate Cubetto Into Your Curriculum

Guest blog for Primo Toys
View on Primo Toys's blog by clicking HERE

How to Integrate Cubetto into Your Curriculum

Cubetto is an amazing tool for teaching children about programming, and many teachers have already integrated it into their computing classes. If you are an educator curious about using Cubetto in the classroom, one question that’s bound to come up is: How can you merge Cubetto with your curriculum to reinforce what you are already teaching? It’s not as hard as you might think.  
Think of a topic that you are covering in class, such as words that teach the short ‘a’ sound in phonics. A typical activity you may have your students practise is to match pictures with words that have the short ‘a’ sound. With Cubetto, you can make a word map and cards and guide the children in using Cubetto to do the matching for them.  
For example, create a 1×1-metre square map comprised of images of words featuring the short ‘a’ sound (rat, can, ham, and so on). Direct students to draw a card from a stack of the corresponding short ‘a’ words.  Students will then program Cubetto to go to the picture that matches the word.  
Homemade Cubetto map

Endless possibilities for learning

Want to make it more difficult? Require students to use a certain number of commands in their program. You could also place a coloured dot on selected pictures and instruct students to program Cubetto to pass over them on the way to its final destination. This forces students to use a more indirect route when programming.  
Other ideas for curriculum-based maps are:
  • Subitizing
  • Shapes with attributes
  • Maths facts
  • Beginning sounds
  • Capital letters with lowercase letters
  • Vocabulary with definitions
  • Coins with money totals
  • Parts of speech
  • Historical figures with descriptions
The list could go on forever. Do you have other ideas? Share your ideas and see what other Cubetto users have created on this site I have set up for the purpose.
Making your own maps is easy. I’ve created a publisher template and card downloads to get started. (Note that the publisher template works with MS operating systems. You can download the Cubetto map template in PDF format here.) Compiling the activity is easy. Add a picture and a word to each page, then save as a PDF. Print each page in actual size on to cardstock or other durable material. Cut out the images and words. Lay out the images on a table in the order you want. Connect them using a small piece of sticky tape between each image. Laminate the poster and words and now you have your very own word map! To store your maps, a clothing rack and hangers work well. Put the cards in a bag and hang them from the hanger with the map.  

What do kids think about Cubetto?

Kids love using Cubetto! The Fort Sam Houston Elementary School Imagineers are so excited about it that they worked the Cubetto booth at the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference in June of 2017. The Imagineers are an outstanding group of students at the Fort Sam Houston elementary school who love all things ‘maker.’  They are trained on everything in the school’s Makerspace, which is known as the Imaginasium.  When teachers need an extra hand in the Imaginasium with students, the Imagineers are called upon! They also present at conferences, serve on panels, and speak with teachers in other districts interested in starting their own makerspaces. They are an amazing group of students and would be happy to video conference with anyone who has questions. Get in touch and share the makerspace knowledge!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Full STEAM Ahead Summer Maker Camp 2017

In the past 2 years, we have offered a week long summer maker camp for 4th and 5th graders at the elementary school.  This year, we decided to change things up.  We designed Full STEAM Ahead so that students/parents could pick and choose what they wanted to attend, much like you pick and choose what you want to attend at a conference.  Half day and full day sessions were scheduled throughout the week and parents signed their children up for as few or as many sessions as they wanted to attend.  You can see the sessions and descriptions at our website,

Maker Camp just ended.  It was a huge success!  The children had so much fun! Click HERE to access our Seesaw Blog.  Here you will find all of the videos and photos from the week.  Enjoy!

If you would like any more information on how to organize a Maker Camp of your own, please contact me at and I'd be happy to share everything we have!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Guest Blog For TCEA: Miss Nelson Is Missing (She's at TCEA), Co Written by Dr. Roland Rios

Guest Blog For TCEA, Co Written by Dr. Roland Rios
View on TCEA's blog by clicking HERE

Miss Nelson Is Missing (She’s at TCEA!)
Miss Nelson Is Missing
Written by Guest Blogger
Worried about what your students might do while you’re away at #TCEA17? Learn some easy ways to stay connected with them while you’re gone.
In the popular children’s book Miss Nelson Is Missing, the kids in Room 207 aren’t on their best behavior when their teacher is gone for a day. Luckily, the substitute is able to gain control and get them back on track. As you prepare to head off for the TCEA 2017 Convention & Exposition, are you fearing a “Miss Nelson” catastrophe from your students? You don’t need to. With all of the great technology out there, you can stay connected to your class and still enjoy the wonderful things the convention has to offer. Here are a few of our favorite ways to stay connected with your kiddos.
Schedule announcements, questions, or assignments on Google Classroom ahead of time. You may have the best of intentions on posting things on your Google Classroom while at the conference, but trust us – you will be busier than you think. There is so much great stuff to see and do that you might forget to post something important. Plan ahead and use the “Schedule” feature when posting so you’re sure not to forget.
Add a video, photograph, or drawing to your Seesaw blog. Are you using Seesaw in your classroom?  If so, you can use your Seesaw blog to share things that you are doing at TCEA. Anything that you can create or upload into Seesaw can be shared in the blog. For example, you can post a video or picture of you and Moby in the exhibit hall and ask your students to write about their favorite BrainPop video. You could also post flipped lessons for them. Create a drawing or video teaching a topic and then ask students to submit some type of product to you on Seesaw. If you haven’t used Seesaw blogs yet, you can find directions by clicking here.
Pre-record video greetings or instructions. Students may pretend to like it when you’re out, but deep down inside, they’ll miss you! Let them see your happy face while you’re gone. You could leave a morning greeting for your elementary kiddos, or record detailed instructions on assignments for your older students. All your sub needs is the URL of your post.
If you have a YouTube channel, the easiest way to do it is with the YouTube app. Simply open the app, click on your account icon in the upper right, then select My Channel. Once there, click the red camera icon and hit record. For best results, turn your phone sideways into landscape mode. Record, upload, and send the sub the link. If you don’t have a YouTube channel or if YouTube is blocked on your campus, then try using Loom, an online screencasting tool that you can use from any browser. Loom allows you to record what’s on your screen, but also has a “Camera Only” mode so you can just record yourself. Like YouTube, you’ll get a unique URL for your uploaded video.
Miss Nelson Is MissingCommunicate in real time with your students. Stay connected with your students by engaging them in a real-time dialogue. You can do this in writing or with voice. Today’s Meet allows you to create a chat room for you and your students.  Go to, name your room, and decide how long you want your chat open. Then Today’s Meet will create a unique URL. Copy the URL from the address bar and share with your substitute and students. You can ask questions, students can respond, and the conversation can go on for as long as you have the chat open. Please note that you cannot moderate Today’s Meet. Students can put in nicknames that you may not know and you cannot remove posts that are made. You can get more privacy settings if you sign up and pay for Teacher Tools.  
Voxer is a “walkie-talkie” app that allows you to have conversations with a group using audio and/or text. Your first step is to create a Voxer account. You can do this in a web browser or through the Voxer app. Next, get your students to create accounts. While they can create an account using the mobile app, it’s best if they do it online at so they won’t have to enter their cell phone number. Once they have accounts, create a Voxer group adding them to the group, and you’re off and running (or Voxing)!
Use Twitter or Facebook live to bring your students to the Austin Convention Center. Twitter and Facebook both have live options where you can record what you are doing and live stream it. This is a great way to have a quick conference with your students, show them the exhibit hall, or let them experience what you are learning. Our recommendation is to only use Facebook and Twitter Live if you have a classroom account. The substitute will need to be following your class. They can watch live or watch the recording later, but live allows the class to interact as you are streaming.
To get on Facebook Live, simply sign into Facebook, click on the What’s on Your Mind box, click live video, and then the next button. To get on Twitter Live, go to the Twitter app on your phone or tablet, tap the feather to write a new tweet, and tap the live button. Now you can record yourself, and anyone who is following you on Twitter or your Facebook will be able to see the video.
Make a game of it! Students love playing games, so turn your trip into one. Don’t tell them where you’re going and then conduct a mystery “video chat” with them. If you’ve not heard of this before, the idea is simple. Your students are allowed to ask you “yes” or “no” questions only to figure out where you are. They’re allowed to use any resources at their disposal. If they guess the city quickly, challenge them to pinpoint your location within the city. If they guess the convention center, ask them where in the convention center you are!
A lot of people use Skype or Google Hangouts for this. The difficulty with those tools is that the sub will need an account. offers a really simple solution with a one-click video conference that’s easy and free. You don’t even need an account to start the chat. A detailed blog about the service can be found here.
So, plan ahead and stay connected. And most importantly, enjoy your well-deserved learning trip to Austin. We’ll see you there! #TCEA17
This is a blog by Dr. Roland Rios, Director of Technology, and Ms. Jeannine Freeman, District Instructional Technology Coordinator, at Ft. Sam Houston ISD. You can stay connected with Roland and Jeannine @drrios and @TechTimeWithJ9.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Imaginasium

The Imaginasium is Fort Sam Houston Elementary's Maker Space.  What is a maker space?  Check out this quick interview with Peggy Reimers, one of the directors of professional development for TCEA.

Dr. Roland Rios, Director of Technology and myself have been hearing all about these awesome Maker Spaces in other schools.  We really wanted to see this at FSH Elementary because we knew the great opportunities to create that it would bring our students.  It didn't take any persuading for the Principal, Dr. Joseph Cerna, to agree to giving us an entire classroom for the Maker Space.

Now that we had a room, it was time to get started.  Thankfully, we had a lot of maker equipment that was purchased for the summer maker camp that Michelle Schiebel, the computer teacher, and Veronica Hellamns, 4th grade teacher, taught over the summer.  We started with that and took off running.  Now we have flexible seating, colorful bulletin boards, building equipment, arts and crafts, brain games, circuitry, programming, 3D printing, video and recording equipment and so much more!

I am so proud to announce that on Thursday, September 15th we had the grand opening for our Imaginasium Maker Space!  The grand opening was set up so that teachers could come in and play with everything in there to get an idea of how they can use it with their students.  We had student helpers that showed the teachers and special guests around and helped them get started creating.  The day was a huge success!  

Since then, we have had many teachers reserve the space for student learning and the kids and teachers are talking!  We have had kindergartners programming Bee-Bots, 5th graders doing stop motion animation with legos, 4th graders exploring what's available and 1st graders building and programming.  Our 5th grade student helpers also presented the Imaginasium to the school board.  The board was in awe of everything there was in the space and how excited the students were about using it!

We are already seeing an impact on student learning.  Students are problem solving, working together, creating, and having conversations like you wouldn't believe.  We can't wait to see all of the amazing things that will come out of this space!  Below is a video that we put together from the grand opening.  Enjoy!


To view more about what's in our Imaginasium, you can go to our website at  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Individualized Technology Plans

This idea was taken from Amy Mayer.

At the end of the 2015 school year and over the summer staff members at FSHISD were introduced to Individualized Technology Plans (ITPs).  Everyone is at a different level when it comes to technology which can make training in large groups very difficult. Individuals also learn at different paces and like to learn in many different ways.  The idea behind ITPs is that everyone sets technology goals for the following year that will benefit them specifically.  They can attend PD that relates directly to their goals and they can learn whenever and however they would like.

To start off, staff members have to fill out a preconference survey.  Using autocrat, the information given in the form is added to a Google doc and automatically shared with the staff member.  After filling out the form a meeting is set up with me or Dr. Rios (based on campus).  At the one on one meeting, goals are discussed and fine tuned.  A plan is put in place to help the staff member achieve these goals.  

Starting in the fall of 2016, staff members will be working towards the individual technology goals that they set for themselves.  Dr. Rios and I will be checking in throughout the year to see how things are going.  We also created a document that organizes the goals into common topics to help us plan PD opportunities as well as inform staff members when an opportunity is coming up that pertains to their goal.

I think that this is going to be a great way to meet individual needs and make sure that everyone has a technology improvement plan for themselves!

Access share resources by clicking HERE.  Feel free to copy anything that you see!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

GoNoodle Brain Breaks

When I was in the classroom, I was always looking for brain breaks for my students.  It is so important for kids to be able to have a few minutes where they don't have to be thinking, and don't have to be quiet or sit down.  The GoNoodle Blog does a great job of explaining the science behind how the brain works and how having an active classroom increases learning and ultimately benefits our students. 

Being a first grade teacher, it was difficult to find videos that were appropriate for my students, engaging, and that got my students moving!  GoNoodle has changed this.  GoNoodle is an online database of interactive activities for kids.  They have activities that get kids moving, dancing, thinking, acting silly, playing, relaxing, etc...  Here are a few pictures and a video of kids GoNoodling:


When you sign up for a GoNoodle account, you sign up according to your school.  The free account gets you a large majority of the videos available.  GoNoodle works really hard to get areas sponsored so that districts aren't having to purchase the paid version (GoNoodle Plus).  My area (San Antonio) is sponsored by Children's Health.  Not only do schools have access, but parents have access at home.  You will be notified if your area is sponsored or not when you register.  Once you register, your class will choose a Champ.  For every activity your class completes, your Champ will grow.  Kids love watching the Champ get bigger and it allows the teacher to set goals for the students.

If you aren't already using this tool, you should be!  If you are, please share in the comments below how you are using it.  If you have any questions or want more information on GoNoodle, tweet me @techtimewithj9 and GoNoodle @gonoodle.