Monday, November 27, 2017

Bright Spot: Energy Sources + Fantasy Football = High Rigor and Engagement

How do you get middle school students excited about learning about different types of energy? Make it a challenge! Tim Duggan, a 7th Grade Extended Core teacher at Sky Vista Middle School, found his students talking about Fantasy Football, and decided that he could use this strong student interest to his advantage. So he had the students learn about different types of energy through a Fantasy Football lens.  

His students formed teams, then had a draft day where the teams chose the form of energy that they wanted to study and debate about.  They even studied about types of energy that weren’t the ones they chose so they could be more successful in their debates. The students had a great time with this project, and many of them attributed this to the freedom, choices, and sense of friendly competition they had while working to beat the other teams.

To get the students more interested in their research, Mr. Duggan invited two experts into his classroom so the students could ask questions. One of the experts joined in person, while the other joined through Skype. Watch the video below to learn more about Sky Vista’s Energy Fantasy Football Project.

If you would like more information about finding an expert to Skype with your class, check out Skype in the Classroom, which is holding their annual Skype-a-Thon on November 28-29. If you are a Cherry Creek teacher, log in to, click the MyProductivity tab, then the Microsoft Educator Community tile. Click Sign In and click Office 365. Then click Skype in the Classroom and find the Skype in the Classroom opportunity that is right for you and your students!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CCSD Bright Spot: Changing Mathematical Mindsets

In Donna Boucher's Math Coach's Corner Blog, she compares learning your ABCs to your 123s, in that when people say they aren't good at math, others may laugh, or even agree that they aren't either, and that's socially acceptable. But if someone says they are not good at reading, the reaction is much different. 

I know that I, for one, used to be the one who said that I just wasn't good at math. I truly believed it. Then I had a teacher who helped me develop a growth mindset in math. I didn't know that terminology at the time, but I did know that I finally understood number concepts and started feeling more confident in my mathematical abilities. When I started working more closely with our district's Elementary Math Coordinators, Sheila Messmer and Jen Overley, I learned that huge strides are being made in Cherry Creek School toward helping students develop positive mathematical mindsets. Check out my video below to learn more...

For more information about Mathematical Mindsets, check out videos from 
Jo Boaler on YouTube and Stanford University's youcubed site.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Summer Learning Opportunities 2017

If you are searching for opportunities to brush up on your technology integration skills and learn about new ways to be innovative with technology, here are some conferences and classes to think about attending/taking over the summer...

CCSD SLA- (Cherry Creek's Summer Learning Academy) June 5-9, ISF (Instructional Support Facility) and Thunder Ridge Middle School

This is a conference for CCSD educators with sessions taught by Cherry Creek teachers, coaches, and leaders. Sessions focus on English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, English Language Acquisition, Technology, and World Language.   

InnEdCO-  June 12-15, Keystone, CO

InnEdCO stands for Innovative Education Colorado. The goal of the conference is "to help teachers integrate technology tools with 21st Century skills, into all content areas." It's always a great conference for teachers, tech. coordinators, and district leaders. You'll see several CCSD presenters here as well.

BLC- Building Learning Communities- July 20-22, Boston, MA
If you have ever heard Alan November speak, or have read one of his books, you know why this conference is a recommended one. There will be multiple, excellent keynotes including Rob Evans and Christy LaPaglia, and, as usual, Alan November will serve as the host of the conference. This conference focuses on creating and enhancing relationships for more meaningful teaching and learning enhanced by technology.

Schoology NEXT- July 23-26, Chicago, IL

If you are already a power user of Schoology or if you are just getting started in using this great learning management system, this is a fantastic conference! One of the highlights of the conference is learning about upcoming additions and improvements to Schoology before anyone else, and I can tell you there are some great upgrades coming! Tracks for breakout sessions will include:
  • Visionary Leadership
  • Assessments, Data, and Informed Decision-Making
  • Innovative Instructional Practices
  • Inside Schoology

There are many online courses 
being offered this spring and summer through eNet Learning Online. These courses can be taken for graduate credit, but every participant will receive CEU credits. Some of the courses offered include Designing Blended Learning, Curate, Collaborate, and Create: A Wealth of Resources, and Creativity in the Mobile Classroom. Click here to learn more about the courses offered. 

Dominican University Online
Are you switching grade levels or content areas next year? Do you want to integrate more technology with your curriculum next year but have trouble finding the time to plan and do your research? If what you need is time, and you want to earn credit for it, then check out the Dominican University Online course, Maximize Student Success Through Enhanced Instructional Design. Through this course, you can earn up to 6 credits this summer doing what you already do, planning to help engage all learners in your classroom.

Hopefully you have found something here to pique your interest and save yourself from boredom during the summer months. If your summer is already full of travel and family time, stay tuned to learn about more learning opportunities when we return in August.


If you are interested in learning more about Blended Learning, iLearnCollaborative is a great choice. Courses are online, so you can work on your skills from the comfort of home, on the beach, at the pool, at your in-law's house... and earn credits. Colorado educators get a special discount. Click here to get more information about the discounted prices.

ISTE- June 25-28, San Antonio, TX

The International Society of Education (ISTE) is hosting their annual conference in San Antonio June 25-28. With over 1,000 sessions and 15,000 educators, this conference brings like-minded educators together from all over the world. Keynote speakers include Jenny Magiera, Jad Abumrad, and Reshma Saujani.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Things We Wish Every Teacher Knew About Technology...

One of my favorite people to follow on social media is EdTech superstar Richard Byrne.  He provides a wide myriad of useful insight, practices, and tools on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  This post is inspired by one of his posts which he published on February 19.  Before writing his post he took to Twitter to prompt his followers to reply to the following prompt, "The things I wish every teacher knew about technology..."  I found the post fascinating and I hope you do too when you have the chance to check it out.

Our department has decades worth of EdTech/teaching experience and passion to share so I thought I would compile some thoughts from us too.  Here are the things (in no particular order) we wish every teacher knew about teaching with technology:

Rachel Advincula, CCSD Online Learning Coordinator, @radvincula95

"Technology tools are an important part of an inclusive community that supports learning for all of your students."

Shannon Burbano, CCSD Digital Learning Coach, @stb_44

"…your students will know more than you sometimes. And that’s good! Let your students be the experts, ask for their help, and be open and willing to learn from them."

Amber Paynter, CCSD Digital Learning Coordinator, @Amber_Paynter

"Technology can transform teaching and learning!  Engage, motivate, differentiate, innovate and shake things up for your students!  The risk is worth the reward!"

Kris Edwards, CCSD Digital Learning Coach, @kcedwards25

" can make your life as a teacher easier, from greater student engagement to proactive parent communication."

Nanci Meza, CCSD Digital Learning Coach, @NMezaTechLearn

"Technology is not an event. It’s a tool to help students access content, raise their engagement, and personalize their learning experience."

As for me (@JayVeanCCSD), I like to remind teachers that technology is not a goal or an outcome.  It's there to add value to your instruction and to support classroom achievement.  Continue to sharpen your perspective on this "value added" approach and you'll maximize your success with technology integration in your learning environment.

The #CCSDTech team hopes you gained some useful perspective in the post and we look forward to supporting your efforts moving forward.  Please be in touch with any of us (via our request from or email) if you would like perspective and/or support.  We are ALWAYS more than happy to help.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Skype in the Classroom

Do you want to take your students on a field trip, but don’t have the time/money/resources to plan it? Were you hoping to use the Google Cardboard kits, but they’re already booked for when you wanted to use them? Have no fear! Skype in the Classroom is here!

Skype in the Classroom is just what it sounds like….Skype….in your Classroom. Project the Skype session for your class, and then students can take turns asking questions in front of the webcam. On the Skype in the Classroom website, there are several options of how you can use Skype to create a powerful learning experience for your students. You can take virtual field trips, meet with a guest speaker, or Mystery Skype with another classroom across the world.

Check out all the virtual field trip options! You can search by grade level, content area, language, region, or availability. Once you find a trip that you like, request the date/time (keep in mind time zone conversions if applicable), and then someone will get back to you.

A few tips….
  1. When you want to request a session, you will be prompted to login. Select Office 365, and then login with your CCSD account. If this is the first time you have logged in, set up your time zone so times will automatically convert to Mountain Time.
  2. If you teach middle or high school and want to skype with all of your periods, make sure to indicate that when you submit your request.
  3. Find a couple of virtual field trips that interest you and request all of them as far in advance as possible, just in case one doesn’t work out.
  4. Have your students prepare questions beforehand so that they can take turns on the webcam. Also, check the Skype website to see if there are lessons to supplement the field trip.
  5. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try tweeting @SkypeClassroom. They are very responsive on Twitter and will do their best to find something that works for you.

In addition to virtual field trips, Skype also has guest speakers and Mystery Skype. Mystery Skype is very similar to Mystery Hangouts, in which you arrange a Skype or Hangout session with another teacher, but your students do not know where in the world the other class is located. They have to prepare questions ahead of time and work together to solve the mystery. This could be great for geography or foreign language classes.

If you would like help in setting up Skype in the Classroom or Mystery Hangout, let us know! We would love to work with you!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Media Production Filming Tools for Checkout

Several years ago (ahem, a couple decades ago), I had to record myself teaching in order to complete an assignment for a college class. My professor asked us to reflect on our teaching as we watched what was captured by the video camera. I didn’t have my own video camera, but the school in which I worked had one that my cooperating teacher used to film me working with students for an hour. The camera was similar to this and my teacher followed me around the room the entire time so the microphone would capture our interactions.

image of an RCA VHS Video camera
Note: Media Production does not have a video camera this old for checkout.

While watching the interactions between me and my students that evening (by myself, because I didn’t want anyone else to see the tape!), after I got over the discomfort of watching myself, I really was able to reflect on how the lesson went. There were student behaviors I missed while focusing on other kids and I wrote about how I could improve my next lesson. I turned in the write up to my professor and never watched the tape again.

Well, technically, I couldn’t watch the tape again because I used it to record episodes of Northern Exposure.

Since then, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my teaching ability, but I know I still have a lot to learn. And while it’s wonderful to have a colleague in the room to observe and provide feedback, reviewing video of the time spent with students can be an amazingly valuable part of the reflection process.

If you are interested in filming for self-reflection, Media Production can help! You can hook up your cell phone or tablet to a SWIVL robot and record your interactions with students. It’s easy to set up and much less intrusive than having a colleague follow you all over the room.


This isn’t the only video tool you can check out through Media Production. We also have Caddie Buddies, one for a phone and one for a tablet. These allow you to easily and safely carry a phone or tablet around as a recording device. They can also be secured to a tripod (also available for checkout).

Are you interested in checking out equipment? Please email Tammy Myslivy, or call her at x45012.
Media Production is located in the Student Achievement Resource Center (SARC) at 14188 E. Briarwood Ave, Centennial, 80112, behind the Centennial Medical Plaza on Arapahoe Road. Our office is open to staff and parent volunteers working on classroom projects Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 4:30.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Become a Google Superhero!

** Note: This class is now full for this session, but we plan to offer it again in the summer. Watch for it in the Office of Professional Learning's newsletter in May. **

Do you want to be a Level 1 Certified Google Educator? Or maybe you want to become a Google Superhero? Then take our Google Course!


This course is online and self-paced: finish it all over spring break or take your sweet time and work on it from now until May 5th. This class combines Google Training modules with additional coursework in Schoology to give you credit for studying to become a Level 1 Google Certified Educator. This course is designed for teachers who would like to increase their knowledge in using Google Apps in their classrooms. Through the companion coursework in Schoology, we will provide lots of opportunities for you to practice using all that Google has to offer with your classes. AND you get 1 credit. Could it get any better?

We’ve extended the deadline to sign up to this Friday, March 3! So if you thought you missed out, you are in luck! Sign up today through ERO and send a check to Joni McRoberts at SARC. The SRN # is: 20168064301

Check out the flyer below for more information:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

We LOVE Breakout EDU, Part II

In last week's blog post, we talked about Breakout EDU and how it has been used in Elementary classrooms in Cherry Creek.  This week, we'll focus on Breakout EDU at the secondary level. 

To recap, Breakout EDU is about creating challenges for students to solve in order to open a series of locks and eventually solve the challenge for some kind of prize.  The challenges covered in this week's Bright Spot video were from Sky Vista Middle School and Cherokee Trail High School.  

At Sky Vista, students from 6th grade Social Studies classes worked on solving a challenge using their skills in Geography.  At Cherokee Trail, students on the Newspaper staff worked together to learn more about Journalism and how to work together to solve problems. Click on the video below to see how Breakout EDU engaged and challenged these secondary students. 

To learn more about Breakout EDU, go to and click Learn More. If you'd like help getting started with your class, contact our office. We'd love to help you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We LOVE Breakout EDU

It's Valentine's Day, so we thought we would share about something we've come to love, Breakout EDU. As described on Breakout EDU's site

"Breakout EDU creates ultra-engaging learning games for people of all ages. Games (Breakouts) teach teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and troubleshooting by presenting participants with challenges that ignite their natural drive to problem-solve."

Using Breakout EDU in the classroom, students typically work in groups to solve puzzles/problems to unlock clues to open the locks on the Breakout EDU box. The group is given a limited amount of time to get the box opened, so collaboration is imperative and engagement is high. Once they figure out all of the locks, the box opens, and there's a surprise of some kind inside. It might be a piece of candy, a homework pass, or even a ticket to the symphony, as students at Buffalo Trail found...

To learn more about Breakout EDU, go to and click Learn More.

If you'd like help getting started with your class, contact our office. We'd love to help you!

Check out our Blog next week to see how secondary teachers in CCSD have used Breakout EDU with students.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Igniting Passion for Learning through Genius Hour


The holiday season is gone, the excitement of the new year has worn out (perhaps the resolutions are tossed aside?). It’s cold and dark outside. You’re in the thick of the second semester, and spring break feels oh-so far away.

Given the time of year, I decided to write about passion. Not just because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but in these dark February days I find it important to reconnect with what lights you up and gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning. What do you do that you can spend hours and hours working on and lose all sense of time? If time and money were no object, what would you be doing?

Have you ever asked your students these questions? They also long for more time in the day to do the things they really love to do. They get lost in researching and exploring topics of their interest, just like we do. What’s amazing about our profession as teachers is that we can create time in the day for our kids to do just that.

Thus...Genius Hour! Genius Hour (a.k.a. 20% Time or Passion Projects) is based on Google’s 20% Time, in which engineers are allowed to research anything they want as long as it has the potential to benefit the company. Many apps have been developed through their 20% Time, such as Gmail, Google Maps, Adsense, and Google Talk. Educators have latched onto this idea in order to inspire excitement and motivation in their students by allowing them to research any topic of their choice for a percentage of class time. At the end of the year or semester, students present their work in a variety of different formats.

Does it sound awesome, but scary? Are you thinking, “Cool, but I don’t have time for that”? I totally get that! I have been in your shoes, so here are a few suggestions:

Genius Hour Within Your Content

Rarely in our careers are we given time to do anything we want. Even Google has parameters around its 20% Time. So why not have your kids research anything  they want WITHIN your content standards? Give students parameters  and let them discover their passion within your content. They might just discover that they really do love a subject they thought they hated.
Genius Hour to Solve a Problem

How about having your students identify a problem in the world? What is happening in their communities that they feel is an issue? What resonates with your students that they feel needs to be addressed? Have this become the focus of your students’ genius hour. You could even combine this with the content area suggestion to have students discover a problem within your content area.
Genius Hour in Student Resource Period

Do you have a Student Resource period everyday/every other day (Cornerstones, Access, Aspire, SSR)? Why not do Genius Hour with these students? This would be the perfect opportunity to implement Genius Hour without having to worry about taking away time from teaching content.

While it may seem intimidating to launch, I can promise you that it will be so worth it. In the three years that I ran genius hour with my kids, I have seen students do the most amazing things. Here are just a few examples:
  • Create apps for iPhone and Android
  • Raise awareness and fundraise for important social issues like sex trafficking, global warming, and mental health
  • Form new clubs and in-school support groups
  • Learn how to play new instruments
  • Write songs and compose new music
  • Engineer a better football helmet using 3D printing
  • Teach a 7-week course on meditation to adults
  • Write a novel
  • Design and sew shirts to sell on their website
  • Launch YouTube channels

The list goes on and on. Oh, and did I mention that these were ninth grade students? Yep, ninth grade. Many of these students have gone on to form businesses out of their genius hour projects. This project has the potential to open so many doors for your students, simply by igniting their passion and excitement for learning. And it just might do the same for you.

***If you are at all interested in launching Genius Hour, or if you are already doing it, please let me know! I would love to support you in this awesome adventure!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Voices From the Classroom: VR in the Elementary Classroom

The Office of Instructional Technology has the pleasure of working with extraordinary teachers throughout the Cherry Creek School District. "Voices from the Classroom" is one way we highlight innovative teaching and learning from the teachers themselves, in their own words.

Our guest blogger today is Pete Dirindin, Instructional Technology Coordinator from Black Forest Hills Elementary.

The students in 2nd grade at Black Forest Hills Elementary do an alien project each year. Their final project is to learn about adaptations that would be needed by studying the solar system and its planets. This project is presented verbally and digitally to parents at the end of the unit by creating an alien with adaptations for where it will be living. Hats off to their terrific teachers for creatively integrating science, reading, and writing into this project. We worked together to help build up some of their knowledge around space with many apps and websites as resources, but something new this year that added a whole new excitement while building background knowledge was Google Cardboard and a couple of free apps that explore space.

We began getting our hands on the Google Cardboard Kit by checking it out from the district library. The only ones available were the Google Cardboard without the devices. We checked out 24 Cardboards and picked them up from SARC. Denise Wendl and her talented staff had them ready for me the Friday before we were going to use them. With no devices to use in 24 cardboards, we turned to our staff for help. We set up a Signup Genius asking our staff at Black Forest Hills Elementary for their own phones to help out. Now asking adults for their phones is a tough thing to do, but we were able to muster up 8 phones total.

After looking through lots of free Virtual Reality apps, we decided on possibly introducing three to the 2nd grade students: Liftoff VRVanguard VR, and Google Expeditions. In the Signup Genius, we asked that teachers have these three apps downloaded on their phones. After realizing that Google Expeditions needs to have all devices connected to the wifi, and what this means for personal devices when using them with students in our classrooms. Not to risk phone calls or texts coming to the personal teacher devices, we chose not to use Google Expeditions for this experience.

During the virtual lift off app the students had a BLAST! The app took about 7 minutes or so to get through. We had 8 phones and 106 students in 2nd grade. We ended up going through 2 classes in an hour on one day and then 2 classes the next day during that same hour.

With the eight phones, we were able to pull eight students at a time to experience the Liftoff VR app. This app is a virtual trip to near space alongside a rocket ship. With over 100 students in 2nd grade, we introduced the Liftoff VR app on Monday to the students. During their research time on Tuesday and Wednesday we were able to get through 2 classrooms in an hour.
The experience itself for the students caused a lot of excitement.

The students were introduced to the Cardboard and explained three things:

  • If they felt sick or dizzy during the experience to take the Cardboard off their eyes and focus around the room.
  • Students started by sitting in their chairs. They were were asked not to walk around during the experience, but they could stand up and rotate around if they wanted.
  • Students were explained that to start this particular app they would have to focus on the blue dot and then hit the trigger button on the top right of the Cardboard.

The VR experience helped the students to better get a feel for the space exploration that they were doing in class. Through paper books, ebooks, websites their teachers had chosen for them to do research, the VR experience was a cherry on top and a great way to introduce another perspective of their research. In the small amount of time that they were experiencing the VR apps through Google Cardboard, the impact it had was talked about for days and weeks later as we had students working on their projects.

2nd grade is planning on using the Google Cardboard again after spring break when they are working on a project that is exploring our different ecosystems. Again, this will be used to help deepen the knowledge of the research they are already doing by giving them visuals of the different ecosystems. We are planning on using about 17 android devices this time and will be able to use Google Expeditions! The students and staff at Black Forest Hills can’t wait for this next adventure!

Our deep thanks and appreciation to Mr. Dirindin and all that he does for teachers and students!