We switched to Gmail!

First Things First

Staff, here is your starter to-do list now that you’re on Gmail so that you can get squared away for the start of the school year!

  • Create a mail signature
  • Enable the “Undo Send” option if you realize you made a mistake right after you hit “Send”
  • Set Desktop Notifications so you know when you get new e-mails
  • Create Labels (the new “folders”)
  • Set the Calendar Share Settings for people who you want to see your calendar
  • Set whether your calendar is visible to everyone in CUSDK8 or not

(See these videos for how-to’s)

Preview E-mails in Chrome Browser

If you are using Chrome for your browser, we recommend installing a Chrome extension called Checker Plus, that will allow you to easily see if you have any email and view it without opening a Gmail tab.

Preview Pane

Do you like having a Preview Pane where you can read the email and see a list of all your other emails on the side?  Enable the “lab” Preview Pane and set it up to look just* like it did on Outlook.

Setting up an iPad

There are a TON of apps, including the native Mail app. However, we have found that the best app is the Outlook Mail App (previously Acompli). You can sign into your Google account and it will allow you to easily view your mail, calendar, Google files, and more — in one app.

Get Help

Help Videos

For web based Gmail, we have created a playlist of videos showing you how to use Gmail and some specific preferences that will make your workflow easier: YouTube Playlist


If you use Chrome, you’ll notice in the top right corner a “Google” circle that when you place the cursor on top says” CUSD Google Help. This will give you short guided tutorials on how to do just about anything you are wishing to to. If you are in Gmail – it will give you Gmail tutorials, if you’re on Google Drive – it will give you Drive tutorials – it is smart like that! This a great quick reference and learning tool to become more comfortable!



Fox in Socks on Box on Knox!

Dr. Seuss schema

Dr. Seuss schema on Popplet

Yesterday was Cupertino Rotary’s Dr. Seuss Reading Day.  Over 1,350 students in 57 classes had Fox in Socks read to them! Mrs. Jung’s 1st grade class at Lincoln Elementary shared with me this schema they developed about Dr. Seuss.  To create this, they used the iPad app Popplet.  What a great way to organize these interesting facts about Dr. Seuss!

For those of you who are not familiar with this book, here is an excerpt that will help you appreciate how difficult this book is to read out loud:

“When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles and the bottle’s on a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles……they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle.”
Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks

ISTE2014: On systems tools and STEM

A couple weekends ago Greg and I went to the ISTE 2014 Conference where a whopping 16,000+ fellow educators gathered together to learn from each other about all things related to education and technology.  It was overwhelming to say the least.  Just check out the #ISTE2014 tweets to see the kinds of things people were learning!

I knew this was going to be a huge conference so I didn’t want to go in there without a plan.  These are the things I set out to look for to advance our (IT)^2 initiatives from a systems perspective:

  • Who else is going 1:1 with iPads and how are they managing their deployment?
  • What are school districts using to manage requests for help and keep track of technology and current configurations?
  • Which Learning Management Systems (LMS) would best meet our needs?
  • What tools and strategies are available for those who want to focus on STEM?

Even though crowds turned me away from half the sessions I attempted to attend, I still managed to get a good sense of what systems other districts are using, how they came to their decision, and whether they had any regrets.  

Almost every district I spoke with loved whatever tool they chose, which told me this: there are a lot of good options out there and if it has the features you want, you can make it work for you!  That’s never the answer you want to hear (C’mon, just tell me which one is the best!!!) but it’s the reality – every school district has different needs.  We are narrowing down on an LMS system now so stay tuned for more information as we start pilots so we can have an easier time tying together our student and teacher communities.

Now, for the fun stuff.  For the sake of brevity, I am going to just focus on one area in this post.

STEM in Elementary Classrooms

Tools are being created to do a better job of integrating STEM, a notable departure from just teaching traditional math and science and calling it STEM.  I went to a session led by Los Altos School District STEM teachers and was intrigued by the sequence they were using to teach programming and critical thinking skills throughout K-6 (I really didn’t have to travel far to learn about this one):  

  • Grades K-2: Programming Bee-Bot robots, use of computational thinking games and iPad apps.
  • Grades 3-5: Visual programming with MIT’s Scratch and robotics with Lego WeDo and Makey Makey
  • Grade 6: Introduce fundamentals of computer science. Programming (visual and text based) computing and robotics with Lego WeDo and Arduino micro controllers

I liked this well-defined articulation between grade levels and the tools that would be used.  There are a lot of iPad apps that can help with programming (Bee-Bot, Daisy the Dinosaur, Kodable, etc.) as well but I like that they used a very hands-on, tangible approach to teach computational thinking.  This also provides a lot of ways to embed programming into other curricular areas.  See Los Altos’ full presentation here.  

The best thing about all these great technologies is how much easier it is to learn to program.  Not only do we not need punch cards, we also do not have to deal with troublesome syntax and installing editors and compilers and all that other stuff just to teach programming!  

One of the other tools I learned about separate from this session was littleBits.  They make electronics that snap together with tiny magnets.  No soldering and no wiring?  Yes, please!  This should take out some of the safety issues that comes with having primary grades using electronics and frees students up to focus on what’s happening rather than on getting the wires soldered together just right (which they can learn how to do later).  

If you have some spare time and you really want to dive into some of the learnings, check out the public list of notes on Google Spreadsheets. 

Calling all innovative educators!

This is a great opportunity to show off some of the innovative work you’ve been doing in the classroom!

Microsoft – KCI 2014 Innovation Award: Call for Entries  

Microsoft and the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College (KCI) are pleased to announce the call for entries for the Microsoft – KCI 2014 Innovation Award. You have until January 10, 2014 to apply.

The Microsoft/KCI Innovation Award honors three exemplary, innovative teacher-student collaborative projects that fully integrate technology and benefit the Silicon Valley educational community. The first place award is $5,000. The second place entry receives $3,000, and the third place award is $1,000. All three winners will be honored at the award recognition event on February 27, 2014.

The call for entries seeks nominations for current or recently past exemplary, innovative, teacher-student technology projects and programs.  Who can apply: any K-12 educator, team of educators, or school with a commitment to technology infused education in Silicon Valley is eligible to apply. Winners agree to allow their name, affiliation, project or program information to be published for promotional purposes.

Call for entries opens: 11/1/13

Applications due: 1/10/14

Award announcement: 2/7/2014

Award Recognition Event: 2/27/14

Applicants must be able to attend evening awards ceremony on 2/27/14

Our Hour of Code: December 9-15!

During the week of December 9-15, students all over the country will be learning how to code, thanks to an initiative from Code.org.  December 9-15 is Computer Science Education Week, so finding an hour during that week is the perfect way to enter and celebrate the world of coding.

Why coding, you ask?  There’s a bunch of reasons for why learning how to code is a valuable skill, even if you have absolutely no intention of ever becoming a software engineer.  Here I’ll  discuss a few points that I personally think make it a good reason.  I’m a little biased since I worked for many years as a software engineer but I do think it is a skill that everyone should learn, even if just once.

First of all, we’re in the heart of Silicon Valley – code is all around us and a vibrant part of our everyday lives, whether we code or not.  Code is embedded into our phones, our TVs, our cars… almost everything that requires power has code in it.  And somebody wrote that code to make it do whatever it is that it does so that we can benefit from it.  Code helps us make it easier to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

Second of all, coding teaches persistence and grit.  When the solution is within reach, it helps grow persistence to iron out bugs, work through logic, and get the program to run.  And the satisfaction is almost immediate when the program works!  

Lastly, it’s very “Common Core” to learn how to program.  Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills, and coding is a great way to learn.  You work step by step through logic.  You make sure it makes sense.  You look for ways to break down a big problem into smaller, solvable chunks.

Getting started with coding can be easy if you have the technology available.  I started to review what’s currently available that makes coding accessible to both students and teachers.  On the iPad there are many games that make it easy for students to learn programming concepts.  My latest favorite is Light-Bot.  There is a free “Hour of Code” version that is currently available.  Students use different commands to move a robot.  It is basically a puzzle that teaches programming concepts like procedures, if-then statements, and loops.  Similar to Light-Bot is Cargo-Bot, which is also a puzzle-like app, but instead of moving around a robot you move around a robotic arm to move cargo around.

Next there’s Hopscotch, a visual programming language like MIT’s Scratch.  Students can create their own animations and games using this app.  What’s cool about this is that you can take advantage of the gyro in the iPad, so you can make things happen when you shake or tilt the iPad, or even if there is a loud noise that the iPad detects.  It also teaches how to build procedures, make conditional statements, and loops.  Whereas Light-Bot is more like a game that teaches programming concepts, Hopscotch gives students the opportunity to be creative and create their own game.  This makes it easier to embed coding into your curriculum.  For instance, if you’re teaching geometry, you could have students exploring angles when they make their objects rotate by different degrees, or you can teach them how to move objects along the coordinate plane.

My favorite kids programming language of all time is Scratch, made by the folks at MIT.  They have lots of ideas in their forum on what to do during the Hour of Code.  Kids can create their own games, animations, and stories using this graphical programming language with drag and drop blocks.  You can run Scratch through a web browser with Adobe Flash installed.  When students are finished they can upload their projects and share with others and get comments back – kind of like you can on YouTube, but with a constructive focus.

Finally, I came across this resource called LearnStreet on Edmodo.  Just in time for the holidays, you can learn how to animate your own holiday card using basic JavaScript code!  https://blog.edmodo.com/2013/11/22/webinar-help-students-code-a-holiday-card-perfect-for-all-ages/.  

Will you be coding with your classroom?  Or, do you want to, but need some help?  Let us know in the comments!

iPad Creativity Tools Workshop

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 7th, 3:30-5:30pmToontastic-Icon-1ctr9n7

WHERE: John Muir Elementary GLC

Do you use iPads in the Classroom? Have you been wanting students to use the iPads to CREATE and not just CONSUME?

Come to our FREE workshop on creativity! We will learn how to:

  1. Evaluate apps for creativity
  2. Learn about some favorite creativity apps
  3. Explore how multiple iPad apps can be used together to bring creativity to your unit
  4. Have the opportunity to sign up for a pilot for Toontastic

The creators of Toontastic from Launchpad Toys have graciously volunteered to offer this FREE workshop on creativity! This workshop is geared towards teachers who have access to iPads.  Please come with a unit in mind that you would like to integrate creativity into.

This workshop will take place at John Muir in the GLC. Participation is completely voluntary (we don’t have the budget to compensate your time). However, participants will have the opportunity to sign up for an exciting and exclusive pilot of a new feature of Toontastic!

If you’ve never used the Toontastic app before, here are a few resources:

Click on this link to RSVP.