Expanding My Use of Skitch

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I’ve had Skitch for a few years now and have used it sparingly. When I think about it and/or when I need its prominent and easy-to-draw arrows, it’s been great; it does exactly what I want. But generally it wasn’t in my go to rotation of apps.

I presented today to a group of faculty on Mac Tips and Tricks (under the Mac Training tab above, if you’re desperate to see), so lots of screen shots and lots of annotations. Skitch was perfect. Easy to use; clear; (mostly) editable (more on that below).

A few other factors contributed to my adoption of Skitch:

  1. Microsoft Office’s shapes. At some point, Office took a very functional aspect and made it annoyingly complicated (I might argue that they’ve done this with their entire suite, but that’s another post). I could once easily draw in PowerPoint simple shapes that were easily editable. No longer. The default rectangle is not only this weird gradient light blue, but, when I resize it, the weight of the line resizes accordingly. Because who wouldn’t want a rectangle with a 1/2 inch border that can’t be easily made smaller? I’d been struggling with this for a while, but didn’t have a viable alternative / didn’t realize the extent of Skitch’s usefulness and ease.
  2. Stumbling upon command-shift-control-5. I imagine most of you know the screen shot key combinations (if not, see the Mac Tips and Tricks above). When using them, I mistakenly hit 5 instead of 4. I got the crosshair, but the rest of the screen was greyed out; whatever I highlighted cleared up. I didn’t know what was going on but tried it and it took the screen shot and pasted it directly into Skitch.

Skitch allows easy and editable annotations with…

  • arrows
  • shapes
  • stamps
  • text
  • free annotations / drawing
  • pixelation (i.e. blurring something out)
  • cropping

I’ve included some screen shots below of these different features.

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.50.55 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.51.15 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.52.31 PM

And once I edit or annotate in Skitch, I use the Mac screen shot function (command-control-shift-4) to copy to the clipboard and paste directly into PowerPoint. Skitch of course saves, but all of these are pretty much one-offs, so no need to preserve them anywhere but the PowerPoint, and the screenshot lets me accomplish in two steps what would be a lot more steps to save and place.

So give Skitch a try. For any heavy screenshot work or annotation work, it’s hard to beat.

My First Use of Swivl

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I first saw Swivl at a conference (I think iNACOL) a few years ago and, while it seemed like an interesting idea, I wasn’t doing enough flipping or taping to warrant it. But I was giving a PD today and thought it might be a good reason to revisit Swivl, and I’m glad I did.

Let me say first and foremost that you’ll notice in the video that it actually doesn’t follow me. That is not Swivl’s fault; it is entirely mine. I was hooked in and ready to go, and realized that I forgot my presentation clicker. When I retrieved the clicker, I went out of range for the Swivl, which de-paired the receiver. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out the re-pairing on the fly since I needed to start the presentation. (It’s only fitting that the way I’m facing and the lighting makes the red light that signals that I’m not paired flare conspicuously throughout the video.)

In any case, the video below is as bad as the Swivl gets, i.e. because it’s stationary rather than following me, and it’s still pretty great.

Beyond the defining technical aspects of the Swivl (i.e. that it follows you), here are some other benefits to the Swivl:

  • auto-upload: the Swivl automatically uploads any videos to your account on their server
  • auto-delete: the Swivl doesn’t store videos locally, so your device stays unencumbered by all the video it’s taking
  • auto-awake: the Swivl keeps the device awake during the upload so, as long as you don’t interrupt the upload, it continues until it’s done (this can of course be a power drain, but I’d rather have to turn it off to save power than to turn it back on every few minutes after it puts itself to sleep)
  • (all of these are in contrast to Dropbox; I have the Dropbox camera uploads active and it is slower, needs to be turned back on constantly (especially for video) and requires me to manage the storage on my device)

So here’s the video. Again, it could be a lot better. But it’s still pretty great. Thanks, Swivl.

[Wordpress is being a bit finicky with the embed code, i.e. I can see the embedded video below in this edit page and the code worked in an online compiler, but when I view the post itself the video doesn’t show up. In case that happens, here’s a link for the video.]


Focused Video Questions Using GoogleForms

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Was emailed this article about using embedded videos in GoogleForms to ask directed questions with efficient access to the videos (for rewind / review). Seems like a good approach, one I might have to try.

Socrative Redux (Redux)

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So I’m back to Socrative. Again. (Hence the (Redux).) Not full time / as my primary online assessment tool, but it has a fantastically useful feature: spontaneous quizzing, i.e. a quiz / online assessment that can be used without any set-up ahead of time.

The National Latin Exam is tomorrow and review can be, well, fairly deadly. It generally consists of a day or two of going over old exams to reinforce format and content. Not a ton of fun. So, going over my options before class, I remembered this feature of Socrative, and realized that it could at least accomplish two things: provide immediate interaction (rather than answering all questions and then going over them), immediate feedback / data, and required only that which I already had: the old National Latin Exam.

Here’s how it works. You login to Socrative (you do need an account) and you are presented with this screen:

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.19.36 PM.png

The Quick Question option is what you want. You then choose the type of question you want (I tend to choose Multiple Choice):


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.33.09 PM

And then you are presented with your answer graph (below; only one student has answered). You simply ask the question however you want: out loud, on paper, toggled on another screen on the computer; whatever works. Once the students answer, you get the graph below (with more answers). The one potential difficulty is that students can answer more than once (I only have 20 students in that class; you can see that Socrative thinks that there are 26), but that is a relatively minor difficulty for an otherwise very useful feature.


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.15.58 PM

Welcome, iPad Pro

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I got the iPad Pro from school today and this is my first crack at it (typing this on it). Here are some first impressions:

  • It’s big. Real big. And I’m trying to figure out whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s basically the dimensions of my MacBook Air but the Pro is thicker, especially with the keyboard and when compared to the skinny end of the Air. This affinity really begs the question of functionality / purpose. Is the size indeed to market it to artists / creative types, giving them the biggest e-canvas that is feasible? Or does the size (and the ubiquitous, almost inevitable, nature of the keyboard) suggest that it can and should replace my laptop? (And, of course, I realize, that plenty of laptop substitution experiments have been done with previous, smaller, iPads.) My goal will be to ascertain its functionality as a laptop-substitute / potential 1:1 device.
  • The keyboard. The Pro I have has the Logitech keyboard (as opposed to the Apple keyboard).  Can tell you already that I am not impressed with the keyboard. ‘S ally in terms of biting up my ting and has done something phantom overs (repeated spacing or design). [From ‘Can tell’ to ‘design’ was typed straight through with no correcting on my part. The mistakes are a combination of the laggy keyboard (compounded by fast typing?) and a capricious yet automatic auto-correct. What it’s supposed to say: I can tell you already that I am not impressed with the keyboard. It’s laggy in terms of keeping up with my typing and has done some phantom moves (repeated spacing or deleting).] If I can’t type quickly and reliably (which, at least as of now, I can’t), there’s no point in even trying to assess it as a laptop substitute.
  • The case / enclosure (and a footnote to the keyboard: it auto-corrects slashes to apostrophes (for some unknown reason)). An advantage the Logitech keyboard has over the Apple keyboard is that it provides a full enclosure, including the back, while the Apple keyboard provides coverage only on the front (similar to a very elaborate Smart Cover). My only potential criticism here is that the case is almost too seamless, i.e. I have trouble figuring out which side opens and which half is the iPad and which is the keyboard. (Minor, I realize, one to which I likely will become accustomed or is idiosyncratic to me.)

Beyond those, I’ve not used the iPad itself much. I’ll keep you updated as I use it more.

iNACOL 2015: Growing Pains & Gains: Cultivating a Positive School Culture with Increased Accountability, Implementation of Policy, and Data Driven Instructionchallenge

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Wisconsin Virtual Academy

Background / The Early Years

  • authorized by the McFarland School District in 2009
  • seems like most teachers hired had no online experience
  • early students had learning coach and teachers; teachers had head of school
  • 2009-10 had 3 senior graduates; 2 came to live ceremony
  • WI state law changed the cap for how many students could be enrolled in virtual schools, which increased the enrollment significantly
  • A school of 80 with 3 graduates has now become 1000
  • HS employs 36 teachers, a 620% staffing increase
  • Content of teams of 1 have become as many as 6-teacher teams
  • Now students have multiple supports and the learning coach has supports as well
  • students have guidance counselors; more English teachers offering different courses; teachers have an academic administrator b/w teachers and head of school; teachers have a dept lead, a PLC (lead), a mentor teacher (if new), and instructional coaches
  • 2009-14 grad rate increased 23.3%; 93% of AP-exam-taking students earned college credit

Growing Pains

  • challenge of supporting a growing at-risk population
  • difficulty in distinguishing between true academic needs and disengagement and how to address them differently
  • some potential solutions:
    • different homeroom / advisory models
    • grade level advisors
    • increased guidance staff allows for more individualized course selection
    • data driven instruction, especially to assess engagement vs. academic support
    • focused on staff members as learning coaches for the disengaged: daily reminders via text or call, etc.
    • students come to a face-to-face orientation (but, those that showed to the face-to-face would have transitioned more easily than those that didn’t anyway)
    • now orientation is all online and students are mandated to attend
  • Increased cap meant that students can enroll at any time rather than during an enrollment period; how are such students transitioned in successfully?
  • teachers also had a crunch because they had to get students onboard face to face but also get their courses going
    • advisors came to help with orientation
    • FASST team (family services) to help with transition / difficulty
    • designating specific staff member(s) to deal with new students: welcoming, onboarding, etc.
    • if new student expectations go unmet, FASST referral is made

Onboarding New Teachers

  • early-on, teachers were teaching all levels of a subject (10-15 math courses / preps)
  • growth meant that preps were lower but student numbers were significantly higher
  • student difficulties became varied, from at-risk to disengaged, etc.
  • WI state testing occurs in Oct / Nov, right when teachers / courses are hitting their stride
  • to address difficulties, teachers developed specialties
  • departments and teams were formed
  • expert teachers took on biggest challenges

Data Driven Instruction

  • early on, school was very flexible; not a lot of deadlines (or at least flexible deadlines): as long as work was turned in by end of semester
  • problem with that is that, if work is not turned in, there is no data to drive instruction
  • so deadlines were implemented within a flexible structure, i.e. not hard deadlines every day but a window within which things are due

Hiring New Teachers

  • growth meant hiring teachers mid-year, which meant it was difficult to train / transition them properly
  • being at home can be isolating; each new teacher received at least one visit, either at home or at a mid-point; the visit was to ask / answer questions but also to assess where teachers were in terms of their abilities / potential

Using Data

  • teachers tended to be reactionary instead of proactive
  • data was used to focused on metrics of the student body rather than its achievement
  • changes to state assessments contributed to availability and usability of data
  • there was a lack of cohesive expectations for teaches which lead to each class feeling different for students

iNACOL 2015: Learning Doesn’t Stop When School is Closed: Kentucky’s Non-Traditional Instruction Program


Beth Peterson, KYDOE, et al.

  • Districts represented miss an average of 9, 15, and 7 snow days per year.
  • NTI = Non-Traditional Instruction Program
  • Benefits: academic continuity, reducing learning loss, fewer make-up days.
  • Process: districts apply, implement their chosen method of non-traditional instruction, submit documentation of instruction
  • Can get up to 10 days waived at end of year if they’re implementing NTI
  • Application consists of general outline of how they’re doing it: project-based, blended, etc. (though most are technological)
  • One school is kicking off project this Thurs (mid-Novemeber) to get people on board.
  • Documentation submitted in spring; based on documentation, commissioner approves how many make-up days are waived.
  • no days were not approved; schools can use the possibility to leverage participation by teachers and students
  • background: students missing too much school (as many as 15-20 days)
  • NTI is a KY statue (KRS 158.070, section 9)
  • alternative instructional plan includes but is not limited to virtual learning
  • plan must show how teaching and learning will not be negatively impacted
  • one full year of implementation; 14-15 first year when anyone was able to apply; 13 districts with an average size of 3200.
  • 91% of students participated; 98% of teachers participated.
  • Second year number of participating districts has increased to 44.
  • What does NTI look like?
  • Should work / assignments depend on time / length or engagement? Wanted to avoid worksheets, etc. Music teacher had orchestra perform individually, something he didn’t ever get to hear.
  • Teachers had to be available for a full day-ish to be available for questions.
  • Superintendent declares a snow day an NTI day; different supers approach this differently: one district did them as early / as quickly as possible; another said that they wouldn’t use them until at least day 5 or 6.
  • Year 1, plans were made in advance and posted for students to refer to and focused more on enrichment; teachers this year want content to be more timely.
  • Accountability: turnaround time = about a week for elementary; required teachers to give authentic feedback rather than just a check off.
  • Attendance isn’t taken; it’s a participation vs. attendance. So no attendance is taken but participating is charted from a grade standpoint. From the state’s standpoint, the participation rate is compared to the average attendance rate. ADA (average daily attendance) is granted for the NTI day from the previous year’s attendance.
  • Many of the snow days occur in stretches (3, 4, 5 days in a row) and not every day off is an NTI day. [This is very different from us; those 2, 3 day stretches are off because of a few inches; it is rare that we have more than one day off in a row, no matter how much snow, with two days in a row being a blizzard rarity.]
  • KY is a right-to-work state; only 10 or so have unions, none in the 13 and unknown whether they are in the 44.
  • Support staff involvement was district-by-district. Some examples are: aides would do PD; secretaries would remotely answer phones; in most cases prinicipals would determine a work plan with individuals. In one district, the only ones who didn’t get a work day were maintenance who couldn’t get to school [I guess they didn’t sleep there, like ours do].
  • One district gave support staff a series of options for make-up days, i.e. they had the snow days off but had to make the day up elsewhere, and the school, with great flexibility, had them in many cases offset work that had to be done over the summer.
  • State asked for (documentation): percentage of student and teacher participation; what were the duties; what were the learning outcomes of each day. State admits there’s no good way to track learning outcomes. Got a lot of sample lesson plans, student work. State ultimately expects schools to have documentation for everyone / a majority but state asked for samples rather than everything, with the possibility of an audit in place.
  • State walked through one school and most illuminating was when they asked students what it was like.
  • From state standpoint the accountability for NTI days is much greater than on non-NTI days, when only attendance is required.

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