Backchannels: Passion. Dialogue. Critical Thinking. Debate. Reasoning. by Robin Hawley-Brillante


Passion.  Dialogue.  Critical thinking.  Debate.  Reasoning.

When you are watching an event happen live, whether it is a game, an awards ceremony, a speech, or an uprising, where do you turn for passionate debate?  Social media.  Where are our students turning?  Social media.  Open up your classroom to this forum for expression using a backchannel.


A backchannel is a real-time, online conversation about an event occurring at that time.  It is like an online fishbowl discussion, where the participants on the “outside” of a fishbowl can exchange ideas simultaneously and silently.

image3Backchannels can occur in online forums such as Twitter, Edmodo, TodaysMeet, GoSoapBox, or Padlet.  Check to see which are approved in your school district.

Start small, start slow.  Begin by establishing online etiquette – 21st Century digital citizenship.  Discuss how the online space is an extension of your classroom, and that the same rules apply there. 

Pause frequently.  Provide feedback, solicit feedback – including both examples and non-examples of effective commenting.  Project the comments when useful.

Go deep.  Focus student conversation around essential questions and metacognitive analysis.  Expand to have students comment on possible topics for future research.

image4Pick very selectively, especially at the beginning.  Include self-selection where appropriate.  Students need executive functioning skills as they are attending to multiple stimuli in a recursive process.  Students also need higher order critical thinking skills in order to engage in metacognitive reasoning and evaluation.  Students need to practice asking each other higher-level questions.  Your most advanced learners may be ready for this challenge.

image5Consider your stimulus.  Backchannels work best with provocative, ambiguous, and complex topics.  Use backchannels with Socratic Seminars (which then become fishbowl discussions), panel discussions, videos, speeches, and presentations.

image6Everyone has a voice.  Backchannels draw out more reluctant participants in an online forum – a “safe” place to share their thinking.  For those students who tend to dominate, it gives them space without having them take up all of the oxygen.  Backchannels encourage the application of critical thinking – students need to structure their arguments with reasoning, evidence, and creativity in order to earn the attention and respect of their peers.

image7About Robin Hawley-Brillante (@rbrillante)

Robin is the secondary resource teacher for Advanced Academics in Baltimore County Public Schools.  Robin served on a panel at NAGC in 2014, and will reprise that role as well as lead a session in Phoenix in 2015.  In addition to her work with teachers of advanced classes within BCPS, Robin provides professional development for teachers across Maryland at statewide conferences and webinars.

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5 Myths about Blended Learning by Laila Sanguras

5 Myths about Blended Learning

1. If you use technology in the classroom, you are a blended learning educator.

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Blended learning is an instructional model that leverages technology in order to personalize learning experiences. The term “blended learning” is actually a misnomer – this is an instructional model that is driven by the educator, not the learner. The success of a blended learning program hinges on the creativity of lesson design that allows for students to use technology to further their understanding. Technology doesn’t create a blended learning classroom any more than feathers and glitter create a gifted classroom.

2. Blended learning is a program for struggling students.

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A noted advantage to the blended learning instructional model is the personalization. Instead of the days when the educator created leveled groups (we all wanted to be a “blue bird”), technology allows for students to all be working on different assignments. The computer/tablet is a mechanism that allows the teacher to create multiple learning experiences and then students can choose or be assigned to those most appropriate to their needs. In an ideal environment, all students are challenged appropriately and move at their own pace through the curriculum. This opens up opportunities ideal for developing talent in gifted learners.

3. Blended learning is easy.

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Students of all levels will say that an advantage of blended learning is that they can move at their own pace through the curriculum. While this doesn’t mean that there aren’t due dates, this does mean that one student may finish an assignment in 20 minutes, while it takes another student 40 minutes. This isn’t any different from every other classroom, except that the student who finishes early can start on the next activity without having to wait for everyone else. The pressure immediately dissipates from a blended learning classroom because the pacing is dictated by each student’s needs. In a more traditional model, the student who finishes early waits for the rest of the class in order to move on. Some students love this down time so that they can text, doodle, read, count ceiling tiles, etc., but many do not. Because much of the content and learning experiences are housed online, there is no built-in downtime – there is always something to work on next. Which, in student language, can translate into blended learning being “hard.”

4. The blended learning teacher doesn’t teach.

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With individualization of learning experiences comes opportunities for students to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. The blended learning educator purposefully designs experiences that push students to answer their own questions, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and become empowered as individuals invested in their education. While it’s rare to see an instructor in a blended learning classroom lecturing to an entire class for an extended period of time, the teacher still does teach. Oftentimes this is in the form of workshops or mini-lessons designed to reteach or extend the learning to make deeper connections between concepts. These are all based on the needs of the students, not on a set lesson plan.

5. Blended learning is a fad.

The blended instructional model is an umbrella under which old and new educational trends can reside. Trends in education like flipped classrooms and problem based learning often invigorate teachers, which is a good thing, but it can also be exhausting to continue to redesign lessons based on district initiatives. A benefit of blended learning is in its simplicity (i.e. leveraging technology to personalize learning experiences) and in its lack of commitment to any one trend. Some lessons may be flipped or centered around a problem that needs to be solved. Others may be a science experiment that uses the same equipment we used in school. Others may be blogging or writing in an online journal. Students might connect to other classes via Twitter or a discussion board. The umbrella of blended learning is as wide and encompassing as we want to make it.

About Laila Sanguras, by Dallas Price

Laila is a middle school teacher for the eighth grade gifted and talented program in a Coppell,Texas middle school. Her program for gifted and talented students fully utilizes the power of blended learning strategies. She has developed many effective tools to manage the blended learning environment, and to educate families and the community about blended learning.

Photos courtesy of Sunny Richardson @iWestCoppell, a blended learning community in Coppell, Texas

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C & T Network Newsletter by Cindy Sheets

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Computers & Technology Network News

I can’t believe another new year is beginning, and even though it seems like our annual NAGC convention was just a few weeks ago, planning is already underway for next year.

Do you have something to share? You may not think so, but did you know that about 75% of conference attendees are classroom teachers, either working in the general classroom or in gifted education? Did you know that many participants will be first-time attendees because this is the first time that we have been in the Southwest in a very long time? Much of what we, as teachers, do every year and every day can be great topics to present to others. Sharing our knowledge is what the conference is all about! Submitting a Proposal? Deadline is Feb. 11, 2015 !

 NAGC’s 2015 Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, November 12-15, 2015 by February 11, 2015, 11:59 PM Eastern.

Some of the themes identified for the 2015 Convention include:
• supporting underrepresented populations
• equity of access to identification, programs and services
• attending to the whole child
• addressing social and emotional needs
• arts education and fostering creativity
• the twice-exceptional learner
• innovative uses of technology

For more information, click below: EventKey=CAAIDEXQ#

Network Opportunities: 
There are many current opportunities to participate in the Computers & Technology Network!

1. Review Proposals
We always need a group of reviewers who will read and evaluate convention proposals. There is a set criteria already in place, and the process is all done electronically. Each reviewer receives access to a certain number of proposals to rate. You will be one of three reviewers for each proposal. In our network, the number depends greatly on the number of reviewers available, but generally is around 12-15.
2. Become our Program Chair
We are in great need of a Program Chair. If you have been a reviewer in the past, the Program Chair is a next step. The Chair reviews the final results from all proposal reviewers and coordinates the results with NAGC staff members and the Network Chair and Chair Elect as we select our final convention proposals.
3. Apply to run for Chair Elect of Computers & Technology Network
There will be an opening for a new Chair Elect for our Network. Please see the information below for more details.

In accordance with NAGC nomination and elections procedures, NAGC voting members in good standing are invited to submit an application for Network Chair-Elect. The term for successful candidates for Chair-Elect is two years, followed by another two years as Chair. The term of office begins on September 1, 2015.
 ! Qualifications Successful candidates must:
•Be an NAGC member in good standing.
•Demonstrate experience as a strong facilitator, communicator, and consensus builder.
•Possess documented experience, service, or scholarship in gifted education.
•All candidates must have been a member of the Network they wish to chair for 2 years.

How To Apply:
Download the cover sheet. A complete application includes the cover sheet and the following information:
•Name, home address, phone number, and email address
•A statement of candidacy including a vision for the Network  (150 words maximum)
•A resume, CV, or statement that includes:

Educational Background
Career Highlights and History
Details of NAGC Participation
Significant Leadership Activities

All nomination materials must be emailed ( or postmarked by April 8, 2015. Electronic voting begins in June.
Download the Network Election Policy

The C&T Network Blog is updated with the latest from the Speed Geeking Playground NAGC 2014
The Speed Geeks presented a fun and informative fast walk through incredible classroom-friendly technology resources. Whether you want to use Waterlogue to transform a favorite photo into a watercolor painting, or create a virtual field trip using Sphere360, the Speed Geeks of 2014 have great list of resources for you to use in the year 2015! Learn more about the resources at the C&T Network Blog, Facebook, or Twitter at #NAGCTechNet.

Computers & Technology Mission
The Computers & Technology Network believes that computers and other types of information technology constitute an intrinsic and immensely powerful aspect of learning in our world today and that the appropriate use of such tools provides greatly enhanced control over information access for learners of all types. Therefore, it is the commitment of the Network to initiate, develop, and implement practices and materials that will promote the use of all types of information technology to improve the teaching and learning process.

Specifically, the Network will undertake activities that will:
•Promote the recognition and acceptance of, and the commitment to, information technology skills as a fundamental area of training for gifted and talented students.
•Promote research in areas relating to the use of information technologies in education.
•Provide practical strategies and activities to foster the use of information technologies in education.

Current  Network interests include:
•Empirically sound Instructional Technology strategies to integrate into the gifted education classroom.
•Promote the use of technology in educating the gifted.
•Instructional Technology focused professional development for teachers of the gifted
•Identifying appropriate Instructional Technology resources.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Cindy Sheets, Chair

Kristina Ayers-Paul, Chair-Elect

Dallas Price, Communications Coordinator

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NAGC Speed Geeking Playground 2014


Autodesk 123D Catch

The Speed Geeking Playground NAGC 2014 is a fun and informative fast walk through incredibly relevant and classroom-friendly technology resources. Whether you want to use Waterlogue to transform a favorite photo into a watercolor painting, or create a virtual field trip using Sphere360, the Speed Geeks of 2014 have a created an amazing new list of resources for you to use in 2015! Share with #NAGCTechNet.

Speed Geek: Shirley Farrell

Foldify – Create, Print, Fold: Create 3D figures on iPad. Then print and fold them from paper.

Waterlogue – See the world like an artist. You don’t need to paint to create beautiful watercolor images—Waterlogue captures the essence of your photos in brilliant, liquid color.

Class Dojo – Using this in a non-traditional way. Instead of for your classroom, as an organizing document.

Zooniverse – We make citizen science websites so that everyone can be part of real research online

Galaxy Zoo – Experience a privileged glimpse of the distant universe as observed by the SDSS, the Hubble Space Telescope, and UKIRT

123D Catch – 123D Catch is a free app that lets you create 3D scans of virtually any object.

Speed Geek: Janine Firmender

Timetoast – Timetoast is a great way to share the past, or even the future…Create timelines in minutes, it’s as simple as can be.

Flipsnack Edu – Students read and create their own stories and projects, while having fun at the same time. They can show off what they’ve learnt and they can learn while creating, always in a safe and private online classroom.

Inklewriter – We’ve created Inklewriter to help writers tell interactive tales with the minimum of fuss. Inklewriter keeps your branching story organised, so you can concentrate on what’s important – the writing.

Classkick – As students work on a teacher-made Classkick assignment on their iPads, teachers see every students’ work progressing all at once. Students can privately raise hands, teachers give individualized, real-time student feedback, and so much more.

Speed Geek: Kathy Ray

Pictochart – We have the tools. You have the smarts. Build your infographic using our simple graphic tools.

Padlet – Create collaborative walls with different privacy settings. School accounts available. – Create your online newspaper in minutes. Automatically find, publish & promote engaging articles, photos and videos from across the web.

Voki – Voki is a FREE service that lets you create customized speaking characters. Classroom accounts available.

Kidblog – Kidblog provides teachers with the tools to help students publish writing safely online. Students exercise digital citizenship within a secure classroom blogging space. Teachers can monitor all activity within their blogging community.

Dipity – Dipity is a free digital timeline website. Our mission is to organize the web’s content by date and time. Users can create, share, embed and collaborate on interactive, visually engaging timelines that integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location and timestamps.

Speed Geek: Brian Housand

iOS 8 !!!  Recording available in Quicktime

Plickers – A response system using symbol cards as answers. Pick up responses by quickly scanning the room. “Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices.”

Speed Geek: Tamara Fischer

Symbaloo – Organizational tool for websites and apps

Blurb– Self publishing. Students and adults can sell or publish hard or soft bound books, books with jackets. You choose!

Spoonflower – Design your own fabrics or gift wrap. Create and share.

OpenStax – College level texts available in free PDF format.

Code Avengers  Learn to build websites, apps and games with HTML, CSS & JavaScript.

Blender – Blender is a free and open source 3D animation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation.

Speed Geek: Ginger Lewman

Ignore No More – No more getting angry if your child doesn’t respond to a text or phone call. With this app you can shut down their phone or device.

Move-Note – Good for flipping. Make and send a video presentation directly from your Gmail. Can create video and or slides or voice only.  Can share notes.

Adobe Voice – App for iPad – Turn your story into a stunning animated video. In minutes.Free – takes a long time to download, but it has themes, icons, photos text. Guide kids through story making.

Speed Geek: Cyril Pruszko

AirServer – With AirServer you can wirelessly beam your iPad display to your Mac or PC and from there to your projector, smartboard or HDTV. AirServer also supports multiple simultaneous connections, so one or more students could mirror their iPads to share their ideas and their work with the rest of the class. You can monitor what your students are working on and encourage collaboration.

Reflector for iPad – Tools to project from iPad to computer or vice/versa, Reflector is an AirPlay receiver that allows you to wirelessly display your iPad or iPhone on a number of devices. It’s available for Mac, PC and most Android devices.

Explain Everything – A unique interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool used by over 1.5 million students and educators.Use for teacher and student presentation, movies, can even mark up while playing and recording. Create a lesson and share with students.

PDF splicer – Combine, edit, reorder, and modify PDF’s in many ways.

Snapseed – A great picture editor.

Speed Geek: Michelle Humphrey  – Contests

Stock Market Game (SMG) national and state level simulation where students invest in stocks and keep track. Competitive.  Invest component includes an essay contest as well.

Philosophy Slam – The Mission of the Kids Philosophy Slam is to give kids a voice and to inspire kids to think by unlocking their intellectual and creative potential through a unique and powerful philosophical forum.

Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl – $35 a team

Fifty Word Stories – Stories must actually be exactly 50 words long. Different themes each month, small prizes.  For upper grades.

Speed Geek: Christy Diehl – iPad apps

VeeScope Live – Green screen – free version has a watermark, but other version is $2.99

Sphere 360 – Virtual field trip, 360 degree panorama. Can use those created by others, or create your own

Word Lens – Instantly translate printed words with your phone’s camera! Word Lens gives you translation on the go – NO NETWORK required – results appear immediately on your video screen when you need it, anywhere in the world.

Casper Focus – Teachers can control a student’s device by locking them into a certain app. It works 24/7 – even when the student is at home!

Speed Geek: Lila Sanguras – Since younger students (and some older) cannot use Twitter, intstead go to. You can search Twitter even if you don’t have an account.

Actively  – Collaborative, interactive close reading assignments with classroom management system for articles, information, standards, lexile levels. Teachers can add content and create a  virtual workspace.

Pocket   Archive items such as links in Twitter. Just “send to Pocket” and you can later search by tags.  Seems to work best on iPad.

Speed Geek: Ian Byrd –  Use this handy tool to develop statements and objectives for student work based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. – Used for analyzing sentences and paragraphs. – Challenging gifted spellers with homographs. Check out the app! – Students generate a story based on the random.

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C&T Network Newsletter: NAGC Convention Special Addition! by Cindy Sheets & Kristina Ayers Paul

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Convention Special Edition!

Convention is just around the corner, and we wanted to share some of the highlights and special network events that you don’t want to miss!

There will be some great sessions all throughout the week, and we’re listing only the C & T sessions here to give you a headstart. You can plan ahead by using the Convention Planner online or the NAGC convention app that’s now available.

On Thursday, our network chair and chair elect will be presenting Expert Perspectives sessions. Cindy Sheets will be sharing “Creative Expression Through Media” – using technology to create and share in the classroom and beyond, and Kristina Ayers Paul will present “Technology to Enhance Content Delivery, Not Distract From It” which will focus on quality professional development techniques using technology. If you or your colleagues have not yet signed up for a session, there are still openings.

Our annual network meeting will be held on Friday, Nov. 14th in the afternoon in Hilton, Peale B, at 3:45 – 4:45. Brian Housand is heading up a new NAGC Technology Task Force and will be sharing the goals and objectives with us as well as seeking input from our members. We will also do some planning for the coming year. We hope you can attend.

Our special Friday evening network event is an old favorite with a new twist. The first hour will be our traditional Speed Geeking: sharing a wide range of fabulous tools in a short amount of time. The second hour will be a Playground format where you can sit down with a presenter or a small group and explore one or more tools in more depth and have not merely a list of great ideas but some experience using them. We are scheduled to be in CC 341-342 for better Internet access. There should be table rounds so that we can easily break into those small groups for further discussion.

Great sessions are coming your way! In an effort to list all of our wonderful sessions, there was not enough space to include some of the names if more than two presenters were listed. Please check on the NAGC website for additional descriptions of the sessions and any additional presenters. We have a great line-up!

For those of you who are not able to attend the convention this year, consider following us on Facebook and Twitter #NAGC2014 and #NAGCTechNet. We’ll try to pass along new ideas. After the convention, we’ll share the Speed Geeking resources with you in a post-conference blogpost and on our Facebook Page.

C & T Sessions

1:45 PM Creating an Online Community for Young Writers 


CC 336 Jill Olthouse
11/14/14 3:45 PM Computers & Technology Network Meeting Hilton, Peale B 
11/14/14 7:00 -9 PM Speed Geeking Tech Playground 


CC 336 Speed Geekers
11/14/14 9:30 AM Meeting the Common Core State Standards Through the T.W.I.N.E.(Technology and Writing Integration to Nurture Expression) Project


Key Ballroom 9 Kevin Besnoy
11/14/14 10:45 AM Blended Programming: Effectively Implementing Online Options forOne, for Some, and for All


Key Ballroom 2 Christopher Ongaro Eleni Siderias
11/14/14 10:45 AM Gifted Learners “Plugged In” for Online Instruction CC 330 Rachel B. Smethers-Winters Sharon Hall
11/14/14 10:45 AM Minecraft, Video Game Design, Rollercoaster Physics, and Robotics:Suggestions for Incorporating STEAM Into Your Gifted Services


Exhibit Hall, Poster Kimberly Clayton-Code
11/14/14 12:30 PM Flipping Out: A Guide to Enhancing Student Learning Through theFlipped Classroom Model


Holiday Ballroom 2 Christy Diehl
11/14/14 12:30 PM Let’s Create an Infographic 


CC 336 Shirley J. Farrell
11/14/14 12:30 PM Using Digital Photography to Enhance Student Creativity andSelf-Expression


CC 328 Del Siegle
11/14/14 1:45 PM Digital Authentic Assessment: Students Creating New Products toDemonstrate Mastery of the Curriculum


CC 345 Kati Searcy Libra D. Burton
11/14/14 1:45 PM The Inverted Classroom: Flipping Out: Be an Innovator of Education  Exhibit Hall, Roundtable Shayna D. Holmes LaRhonda C. Forsyth
11/14/14 1:45 PM The Power of Computer Coding for Elementary GT Students  Key Ballroom 9 Ann E. Durkin
11/14/14 3:45 PM Blogging to Raise the Self-Efficacy of Gifted Mathematics Learners  Key Ballroom 12 Laura Lowder Ann Benson. Crutchfield
11/14/14 3:45 PM Influential Icons/Gifted Minds: Combining a Wiki With StudentGoogle Accounts to Enhance Gifted Curriculum


Key Ballroom 3 April Keck. DeGennaro
11/14/14 3:45 PM The Big C: Curation in a Digital World 


CC 349 Lisa Van Gemert
11/15/14 12:30 PM Blended Learning: Extending the Classroom Learning to GlobalEducation


CC 343 Beth Blaetz Vinnie Vrotny
11/15/14 1:45 PM App-ily Engaged Gifted Learners: A Year of iPads Integrated inEveryday Learning


CC 343 Kimberly M. Berman
11/15/14 3:00 PM Engineering Serendipity: Leveraging Social Media and TechnologyResources to Develop Interests and Create Opportunities


CC 336 Brian Housand Angela Housand
11/15/14 3:00 PM Using LEGO Robots to Create Smileys 


Key Ballroom 9 Muhammad Ali Yousuf
11/15/14 8:00 AM Apptitude: The Ability to Identify Higher Level Thinking Apps andWeave Them Into Existing Gifted Programming


CC 343 Carol M. Greig
11/15/14 8:00 AM Blended Learning: Leveraging Technology to Differentiate forGifted Learners


CC 338 Laila Y. Sanguras April Walker
11/15/14 8:00 AM Engaged Learning Using Technology With High SchoolGifted Students


CC 331 Kathy Ray Kathy Jones
11/15/14 10:45 AM Wow! Who Knew What Edmodo Could Do? Creating a DiverseTech Culture to Foster Equity, Access, and College Readiness

(A True Story)


CC 343 James C. Garner Rachel Stokes
11/15/14 12:30 PM Geeking Out: How Tech-Savvy Youth Navigate the Web toDevelop Talent


Key Ballroom 3 Olha Skyba Eric Calvert
11/15/14 3:00 PM Iconic Prompts 2.0: Utilizing Google Apps and QR Codes  CC 349 Kathleen P. Miller Ali Ryan
11/15/14 3:00 PM Virtual Education and the Gifted Child 


Key Ballroom 1 Gintas Bradunas
11/16/14 8:00 AM The Geeks Have Inherited the Earth! 


Key Ballroom 2 Brian Housand
11/16/14 9:15 AM FutureCasting: Making Inroads to a Successful Future Key Ballroom 2 Angela Housand

Cindy Sheets, network chair

Kristina Ayers Paul, network chair elect

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How to Tech? . . . That is the Question! by Janine M. Firmender (@jjmmff)


How to Tech? . . . That is the Question! 

by Janine M. Firmender (@jjmmff)

Has your school recently purchased sets of iPads or Chromebooks? Does your school have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or 1-to-1 policy? If so, then you have the stuff (e.g.: the hardware), now what do you do with it? Standard responses might be that students can capture pictures, audio, and video; create animations; share documents on Dropbox; or collaborate via Google Drive and Hangouts. The possibilities are probably limited to only our imaginations as educators (or maybe the wi-fi speed or firewalls). Which of these unlimited possibilities to pursue with students, however, is a choice that every time-crunched teacher needs to make. Here I offer one perspective with which we can navigate the purposeful integration of technology – the SAMR Model.


Licensed under Creative Commons with Attribution: Puentedura, 2014;

SAMR was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura as a model for how we can integrate technology with instruction in meaningful ways. SAMR stands for the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition of an instructional or student task by using technology.

To demonstrate this model, let’s consider the classic call-and-response instructional strategy frequently used during lessons to elicit students’ responses. Traditionally, teachers ask questions, students raise their hands, and one student – or sometimes more than one – is asked to provide a response. Using the SAMR Model as a framework we can consider how technology can enhance or transform this task.

Substitution – Instead of calling on individual students, the teacher can use PollEverywhere  as a substitute. . Using PollEverywhere, the teacher can pose a multiple-choice or true/false type question and all students (instead of just a few) can participate by logging their answer through text message or a web browser. The teacher can then view and display a graph of the students’ anonymous responses for further discussion with the class. In this way, PollEverywhere serves as a direct substitute for students raising their hands to answer questions.

Augmentation – Instead of calling on individual students, the teacher can augment or extend the call-and-response practice by asking all students to respond using the Socrative app, which gives the option of downloading a record of responses to multiple question types, including short answer. Teachers can display graphical representations of student responses and download a report of students’ responses. In this way, the call-and-response practice is augmented because the teacher can pose additional question types and have a record of student responses.

Modification – By using the Nearpod app, teachers can modify the call-and-response practice by engaging students through this interactive app. Teachers can push information to students and embed interactive features, such as polls, questions, drawings, etc., all of which can be sent back to the teacher’s device. The teacher can then verbally provide students with feedback or display student work for further discussion. In this way, the call-and-response practice is modified because students are no longer limited to verbal responses; teachers can ask students to draw responses as well and the student responses are submitted to the teacher electronically.

Redefinition – Teachers can redefine the call-and-response practice by using the new Classkick app. With this app teachers create lessons that can include information, pictures, web links, videos, and tasks that are pushed to students’ devices. As students are working through the tasks, the teacher can monitor student work in real-time and provide instant, electronic feedback from the teacher’s device back to the student’s device. Teachers even have the option of allowing students to provide peer-to-peer feedback within the app. In this way, the call-and-response practice is redefined because feedback is no longer only the job of the teacher; students are able to provide feedback to one another.

As the integration of technology continues to be a focus in today’s education environment, the SAMR Model provides teachers and instructional leaders with a lens through which to view the engagement of students with technology and evaluate the ways in which technology tools are being integrated to enhance or transform instruction.

Do you have a favorite technology tool to use with students? How does the tool enhance or transform the task students engage in according to the SAMR Model? Leave a comment and/or join us at NAGC for Speed Geeking on Friday, November 14 from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

SAMR Resources:

Ruben R. Puentedura’s Weblog –

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything –

Janine M. Firmender is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education, Dr. Janine Firmender teaches courses in mathematics education and early childhood (preschool – grade 4) education. She earned her PhD. in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut. Dr. Firmender’s research interests focus on gifted education and mathematics education, including gifted and mathematics pedagogy, the instructional experiences that can change teachers’ practice and expectations, and how teachers’ expectations effect their instructional decisions and the learning opportunities they provide for students. Dr. Firmender is a member of and has presented at the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association, the National Association for Gifted Children, and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics.

Follow the C&T Network Blog at #NAGCtech and Janine M. Firmender at #jjmmff

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iMovie Trailers in the Classroom by Cindy Sheets

Cindy Sheets, NAGC Computers and Technology Network Chair

Cindy Sheets, NAGC Computers and Technology Network Chair

 Who doesn’t want to be in a movie? OK, maybe you don’t want to be a movie star, but perhaps you want to be a writer, a director, or design the set or costumes? Maybe you just have information that you’d love to share.

Last spring, I shared a new way of creating videos with my elementary students. With the discovery of iMovie Trailers the classroom became a buzz of activity. With a little planning on a storyboard, they began to gather props and plot their actions.

With iMovie Trailers, very little writing is required: this eliminates a lot of time consuming script writing and memorizing of lines, but does demand that they use their words strategically to get the message across with a minimum of text and strategic use of visuals. Thinking about what the whole story might be, and selecting only the snippets that will give the audience the gist of the big picture requires them to apply higher-level thinking skills (analyze, evaluate, synthesize) in an engaging task.

With easy editing and flexible media use, iMovie Trailers are a great tool for the classroom. One of the first decisions is to select from a variety of templates that include opening graphics, transitions, and even music to fit the theme or mood. You don’t even HAVE to use video; photos will work and trailers automatically use the Ken Burns effect. So, with iPads in hand, groups of 3 – 5 students found the perfect theme, collected their props and costumes, found locations and began filming. Filming can be done on the spot with the iPad, so it’s easy to take a new shot for a recording that doesn’t quite work.

While I encouraged creativity in developing a story for this project, iMovie Trailers can also be used to illustrate a concept in a content area, to introduce a subject or unit to students, or to highlight your summer vacation. I’ve even noticed some recent Ford commercials that are designed like movie trailers. All in all, it’s a versatile tool.

Trailers are available as part of the free iMovie app on the iPad, or iMovie on the Mac. Similar effects could be developed through other tools, but it’s the easiest I’ve seen by far. I developed a LiveBinder that includes samples of already created iMovie Trailers, including some my own students created. You’ll also find some printable storyboards that others have shared and that will help students with planning their text and shots.

And finally, you don’t have to be an expert at iMovie or iMovie Trailers to open this up to your students. They’ll be able to teach YOU how in just a few minutes. I hope you’ll give it a try! And be sure to share your results with the rest of us on our NAGC Computers and Technology Facebook Page or Tweet with the #NAGCtech hashtag.

See you in the movies!

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Adventures in Online Professional Learning: Spruce Up Your Ed Tech Skills & Knowledge by Kristina Ayers Paul

Kristina Ayers Paul

Kristina Ayers Paul

Adventures in Online Professional Learning: Spruce Up Your Ed Tech Skills & Knowledge

 The summer days are slipping away, and soon you will be immersed in the exciting yet busy first days of the new school year. Surely, a slate of inservice trainings about new school policies and programs awaits you, but what about those personal PD goals that you have in mind for sprucing up your ed tech knowledge and skills this year? In this blog post I will share a list of some of my favorite go-to resources for free online learning about educational technology. However, before you dive into your personalized ed tech PD adventure, take a few minutes to focus your exploration by answering these questions:

  • What are your goals? What are the problems that you have that require a solution? It is really easy to get excited and distracted by all of the sparkly gems you stumble across when exploring new resources such as these, so start by identifying your learning goals. Establish your goals and then stay focused. If you find other topics that you are tempted to explore – that’s fine – just bookmark them and put them aside while you work toward accomplishing your primary PD goal. Don’t get lost in rabbit holes.
  • How will you organize the ideas or resources that you find? I can’t tell you how many times I have found something really special online and thought, “Wow! I really need to keep this in a place where I won’t forget.” Can you guess what happens next? That’s right. I save it, bookmark it, or email it to myself, and then promptly forget about it. Months, or even years later, I find it buried in my inbox or lost in one of my Google Bookmark folders. I’ve tried it all – Evernote, Google Bookmarks, Diigo, Readability, Papers, ScoopIt, and even a little notebook that I keep in my desk drawer – and I’ve finally realized that the trick is to pick one tool that works for you and to stick with it. So do that now! Decide which tool you are going to use to organize your future findings and STICK WITH IT!
  • What specific steps will you take to keep yourself accountable for following through on your new learning? It is essential that you set yourself up for action, not just for consuming new information. One of the most challenging aspects of designing effective professional development is in moving new knowledge into practice. What measures can you put in place to support your commitment to converting your new knowledge into action? Maybe you could incorporate your personal ed tech goals into the formal professional development plan you develop each year for your school administrator? Maybe you could set up a timeline for action and set up reminders in your Google Calendar to keep you on track? Maybe you could find a partner or team of other like-minded colleagues who would be interested in setting up an accountability group, one in which you share your goals, develop a timeline for action, and meet on a regular basis to discuss your progress. This final strategy is one that I use. Not only does it help each of us stay on track with our goals, but it is also refreshing to have biweekly or monthly Google Hangouts during which we support and encourage one another.

 And now for the list of my favorite free, online learning resources to develop my understanding and use of educational technology…

Edudemic: Connecting Education & Technology

Edudemic is the first place that I visit if I want to know anything about educational technology. This “community-focused and resource-sharing destination for millions” offers articles, infographics, tips, lists, and how-to guides galore in easy-to-read-and-digest formats. From quick information such as the best apps for IOS and Android to deeper topics such as Why Every Student Should Learn Computer Science, this site offers lots of concrete information, as well as good food for thought.

 The Teaching Channel

This website offers a showcase of high-quality, relevant professional learning videos for teachers; a selection of which are also aired in weekly, one-hour PBS television programs around the country. The videos focus on real teachers in real classrooms using and reflecting on high-powered teaching strategies. A number of the videos in this growing library are focused on technology (as of 07/30/14 there were 135 videos) with topics as varied as assessing students with handheld devices, teaching stop-frame animation, using technology to teach hard-to-teach math and science concepts, and designing poetry work stations with technology. Don’t miss the video playlist focusing on digital citizenship.


It is popular to suggest that Twitter be used as a source of free professional development, but how do you actually do it? This Teacher’s Guide to Twitter from Edudemic is all you need – other than an actual Twitter account – to navigate Twitter for the purpose of professional learning. From the basics to more advanced tips, this guide covers it all. I particularly like the infographic of educational twitter hashtags, which will help you link into the communities of practice that most interest you. Our NAGC Computers and Technology Network community may be most interested in #EdTech, #ELearning, and #GTChat. Perhaps we should start our own hashtag to signify tweets of interest to the network and other techies in gifted education! Let’s try #NAGCTechNet and see if it takes off.


This is a tool that anyone can use to collect and create digital content around topics of interest. I use the free version of the tool to manage my own collections of keep-worthy content from around the web, but I also find great inspiration and ideas from other ScoopIt users who are curating topics that interest me. For example, Educational Technology News by EDTC@UTB, iPads in Education Daily by Jon Samuelson, and Tools for Teachers and Learners by Nik Peachey are just a few of the curated topics that I follow. I receive daily email alerts highlighting content recently “scooped” by those I follow, and when I log in to the site I also receive a list of computer-generated content suggestions based on the topics that I curate. I currently use the free, standard account, which has suited my needs well, but pro versions and a new education version are also available. You might be interested in following my “Tech Tools to Facilitate Learning” topic, where for the past year I have collected a number of articles, news briefs, and other digital content related to that topic.


So these are some of my favorite go-to resources for my own learning about educational technology. I’m sure there are plenty of other great resources out there. What are your favorites? Leave a comment on this blog or tweet your contributions with the hashtag #NAGCTechNet.

 Kristina Ayers Paul is an Assistant Professor of Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies at Purdue University. She is the incoming chair of the NAGC Computer and Technology Network.

Posted in #NAGCTechNet, C&T Network Blog, Invitation, Sharing, Social Media, Tools, Twitter | Leave a comment

6 Tips for Teachers New to Technology by Lisa Van Gemert

cover image

1 - embrace learning curveEmbrace the learning curve: One reason children learn additional languages more easily than adults do is that they’re willing to speak the target language without fear of sounding childish.  The same is true of technology. One of the things that holds us back is fear of looking foolish. Do you remember the feeling you had when you had been teaching a few years and thought back about your first year teaching? Were you like me and wished you could go apologize to the poor kids who had you for a teacher that year?  You’ll feel the same way about technology!  You will work with it for a while and then realize that what you’d done before was terrible, but that’s okay. It’s exactly the way the pattern goes.

Make sure it’s the right fit: Keep in mind that technology is for the classroom, not the classroom for the technology.  Don’t just throw technology tools or projects or apps in because you feel pressured to do so.  Invite it in, and feel free to invite it to leave when that’s what’s best. Use technology when it will do at least two of these things: enhance the product, differentiate learning, save time, reduce stress, invite creativity, develop skills, meet a standard. If it can’t do at least two of these things, it’s perhaps not the best tool at that time.

Walk before you run: You can easily become overwhelmed with the wide range of technology tools available, including social media.  Sometimes, we’ll get excited about it and jump in with both feet before we’re really ready and then quit in the same way people sometimes do with fitness plans. A slow and steady pace is best to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed.  A great place to start is to follow some blogs for awhile and get a feel for the language and trends. If you see a tool or method mentioned multiple times, it might be worth a deeper look. Here are some great places to start: Cool CatTeacherEdu Blogger; Richard Byrne; Erin Klein; Keith Ferrell.

4-curation Curation isn’t just for museums anymore: You will quickly learn that you will need an organization method.  This can be as simple as notecards with the tech tool tip written down on it, along with a description, all the way to an app or other tech help.  Whatever works for you is what’s best, but make sure you pick something or you will forget many of the great ideas you pick up.

Here are some options for you: Pinterest: Set up different boards for different kinds of technology. Possible boards would include: apps, tech for student products, teacher helps, websites to follow, to explore, and tutorials and helps.  Visit Erin Klein’s Pinterest for Teachers for ideas on how to use Pinterest in the classroom. Diigo: Diigo lets you build a personal library of information that is stored in the cloud (not on your computer so you can access it anywhere).  It even has virtual sticky notes.  One real benefit is that allows you to archive web pages, so you will never encounter a dead link again on something you really need. Feedly: Feedly funnels all of the websites you follow into one site, allowing you to see at a glance what’s new. You can create categories for the different sites.  Very easy to use and a great way to keep up without going crazy. MyFaves: It’s simple to use MyFaves to make your virtual desktop a repository of the sites you use most in a visually appealing way. Other sites, like Symballoo, also do this. So just pick the one you like best.  I find MyFaves to be the most clean-looking, which is important to me. Evernote: You can take and organize notes in Evernote, of course, but it also lets you save, share, and mark up webpages. You can share marked-up webpages, too, which is quite handy. Copy:  Like Dropbox, Copy lets you save files in the Cloud and share them.  Google docs is great, too, but if you have a need for something else (plays better with your device, want to open the document in the actual program rather than Google docs, looks prettier, etc.), Copy is my favorite.

5 - tutorials

Tutorials are your friend. If you find a tool you’d like to use, but you’re not sure how or the site itself isn’t fully explanatory, tutorials are at your fingertips on Pinterest, TeacherTubeSchoolTube , and of course, YouTube.  Pinterest has a terrible search feature, so use your favorite search engine and search “pinterest fill-in-the-blank tutorial” to find what you want.  Chances are, if you want to try it, someone’s made a tutorial for you.  Look through a couple of tutorials before you try it if you’re nervous to build confidence and familiarity.

Join a community: Whether it’s virtual or in real life, find a group of educators with whom to share ideas and experiences.  If you’re into social media, you can find them easily on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, or any of the other myriad social media platforms.  Twitter works especially well for learning tech, and you can find out lots more about how teachers can use it at Edudemic’s Ultimate Twitter Guidebook for Teachers. Technology doesn’t need to be intimidating. With these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to using technology in a way that helps your students and makes you feel comfortable.

Disclaimer & Credit Love: Some of this material previously appeared on my website, giftedguru, and the images are from my fave source for free images, Pixabay. I created the images with the text in Picmonkey, a terrific free image editing site.

L_VanGemertLisa Van Gemert, Mensa Gifted Youth Specialist, designs and creates programs for gifted children, develops curriculum for gifted children, and interfaces with parents regarding educational concerns. Her published articles focus on the social and emotional needs of gifted students, and her speaking engagements include both national and international keynotes. Lisa creates and curates the Mensa for Kids website as well as her own site, Gifted Guru.

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2014: An Invitation to Participate

2014: An Invitation to Participate

by Cindy Sheets

Baltimore, Maryland. A beautiful location for the NAGC 61st Annual Convention. November 13-16, 2014.

Baltimore, Maryland. A beautiful location for the NAGC 61st Annual Convention. November 13-16, 2014.

Another new year has begun, and with it all of the hopes and expectations for a better and brighter experience in the year ahead. There were some notable highlights in the past year for our Network.

First, I want to thank all those who shared their expertise and knowledge with us at the 2013 NAGC convention. We had an excellent array of topics and ideas! If you presented this year, I hope that you will consider writing for our monthly blog to share once again. These are short pieces that highlight one topic, idea or a favorite tech tool that you can’t live without. Of course, you are welcome to submit a blog article, even if you were not a presenter this year. We’d love to hear your story.

The proposal process for next year’s convention is already up and ready to go, just waiting for your great ideas. I hope you will consider sharing with us in 2014. Do you have a great unit that incorporates technology? A great idea on how to utilize and/or manage tech tools? Or a great project that helped your students shine? You can access the information you need and the proposal submission web pages here:

NAGC 61st Annual Convention & Exhibition Proposal Submission Site

In 2013, we added a fabulous new volunteer to our Network: Dallas Price. Living in Alaska makes it difficult to be with us “offline” and in person, but she more than makes up for that in her “online” work as our Newsletter/Blog editor and more.  We will also be sharing with you soon her fantastic idea to help us share even more within our Network.

Looking for Blog Volunteers:  contact Cindy Sheets  or Dallas Price Please include “CT Blog” in your subject line.

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