Sunday, September 9, 2018

Enabling Your Students to Collaborate With Triventy Online Quizzes

In today's classroom, in order to empower students and meet their educational needs, we rely on various instruments, such as, data driven instruction and formative assessments.  This can be done through gamified or game based learning and online Web 2.0 tools.  There are a number of online formative assessment tools, some which are completely free and others that are free with premium paid features.  Some of the popular ones include Kahoot!, Quizlet, and Quizziz. Last week, I stumbled on a free online formative assessment tool called Triventy.   Triventy is a game-based learning platform which enables you to author, run, and host quizzes and surveys in your classroom.  You have the option of creating your own quizzes, customizing public quizzes which have been pre created by other teachers, or running public quizzes "as is."  Triventy is easy to use, self-explanatory, and walks you through the online application step by step. Your students will participate in the quiz using their smartphones - without any prior installation - while you run a quiz on a large screen, just like you would run a presentation.  You can access Triventy by going to   Although Triventy has been around a few years, it does not seem to be as widely known as other online formative assessments. I found it very easy to use and was quite pleased with the results.

So, how does Triventy compare to other online formative assessments?  I've used other formative online assessments such as Kahoot! and Quizziz.  Below is a chart comparing and contrasting various online formative assessments compiled by Richard Byrne, well known blogger of Free Technology For Teachers.  You can download this chart from the following site
So are you ready to create your very own Triventy quiz now?  Here's what you need to do. First, you need to sign up for a Triventy account.  Open a browser and go to  You will be signing up for a FREE "Education" account.  (If you sign for an "Events" account, it will charge you, so make sure to click on the "Education" button.)

When using Triventy, you have three options:
  • You can create your own quiz.
  • You can run a public quiz "as-is."
  • You can customize a public quiz to meet the needs of your class.
In order to create your own quizzes, you will need to login.  Once you are logged in, go to "My Quizzes" (upper right menu), and click the "Create New Quiz"  button located in the upper left hand corner.

Once you do that, you will be able to enter the editor mode for your quiz.  Follow the directions on the image below in order to create your very own quiz.  

 After you follow the directions above, make sure to save your quiz.  

There's also the option of customizing a public quiz to meet the needs of your own students.  To customize a public quiz, go to "Public Quizzes."  Find the quiz that you would like to use and select the "Customize" button.  The quiz will be duplicated into your quizzes list where you will be able to edit it from there and make your own.

There may be times that you will find a public quiz that will be suitable for your class and therefore, no editing is necessary.  

As mentioned above, Triventy gives you the ability to allow your students to add questions in your quizzes.  When you are in editing mode, click on "Invite others to to add questions to this quiz..."  Check the box to share.  A popup window will open that provides options as to how you can share it.

So now that you've experienced using Triventy, what are the practical applications of this technology tool?  What kinds of students could you use it with?  When using technology in education, we want to make sure that we use it to enhance, extend, and even redefine our students' learning; we do not want  to use technology for the sake of using technology.  Using Triventy in a classroom is an easy way to not only assess our students, but to give our students a chance to collaborate with us as well; especially those who might be shy or fearful in expressing their thoughts and opinions in a typical manner.   You will be happy that you did and your students will be too!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's a Bird....It's a Plane...It's a Finch Robot at the Maker Xpo!

In recent years, there has been much hype around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math); hence the creation of "STEM classes" and "Maker Spaces." Too often, something that first starts off as innovative unfortunately has the potential to become a fad, because all of a sudden, anyone and everyone is participating in it. Because of this, it's very easy to lose sight of the "big picture" and forget WHY we adopted the initiative to begin with. Therefore, it's always important to set goals for what skills are to be accomplished through this task. Our SINAI Schools students had the pleasure of participating in this year's Maker XPO for the purpose of inclusion and was the only Special Needs school participating. When choosing an idea for a booth, I also wanted to make sure that it would provide them an experience through which they could strengthen their critical thinking skills as well as the opportunity to be immersed in an experience with STEM that would be relevant to them.

One of the key elements when teaching a STEM curriculum is making it relevant, concrete, and multi-sensory. This is even more important when presenting such concepts to students with special needs. Too often, people who are unfamiliar with students who have special needs believe that they either can't be taught, or they need to be spoon-fed the information as they are not able to learn the material themselves. How wrong they are. If the material is presented in a clear, relevant, concrete, multi-sensory, and exciting way, there's no reason at all that these students cannot reach their full potential.

When it came to selecting a booth for this year's Maker XPO, it was important for me to choose an activity that exhibited the qualities mentioned above as well as being one which my students would be able to teach themselves; I wanted them to have a sense of empowerment and be in control of their own learning. When one teaches him or herself the content, there is a greater sense of appreciation afterward because he or she knows the amount of effort and dedication that goes into learning the content.

GIVE a man a fish and you feed him for a day. TEACH him how to fish and you feed him for his lifetime. — Italian proverb.

The choice for an activity was crystal clear. I decided to contact Birdbrain Technologies and ask if we could borrow their Finch Robots. So what are the Finch Robots you may ask? And why would it be something so intriguing for our students? As I mentioned beforehand, teaching a STEM curriculum can be very dry and abstract; it's all about the presentation. The content and skills need to be presented in a clear, direct, concrete, and relevant manner. In addition, many students with special needs have a hard time with flexibility; rather they are rigid and need to be in control of their own of their own learning environment. Using the Finch Robots to teach computer science programming accomplishes those tasks providing the user full control of his or her learning environment, an opportunity to strengthen higher order thinking skills, and last but not least, a multi-sensory learning experience. It's a win-win situation for everyone.


So, how does it work you ask? Finch Robots can be programmed through the languages of Scratch or Snap which are both very visually based and user-friendly. For purposes of this project, I chose to use Snap. When the Finch robot is connected via USB to the computer, the students use Snap to build a program or "script" by dragging and dropping blocks together. There are a variety of commands that one can choose from, including but not limited to: controls, motions, looks, and sounds. These controls enable the user full control of the program thereby making it very user-friendly.

While the students were at the Maker XPO, they were able to apply the skills that they learned and teach the program to participants with full confidence.

Mrs. Smith* and her daughters expressed how pleased they were that they came and saw Miriam* at the XPO today. She sent the following email:  "Just want to reiterate how rewarding it was for Miriam to participate in the XPO today. We too enjoyed seeing her in action. "

Mrs. Klein* texted about Sarah: "She had an amazing time, what an experience for her!!! Thank you!"

Sima Kelner, Director of SINAI @Maaynot Yeshiva High School for Girls expressed her enthusiasm as well, "The girls felt such pride, as did I, watching them lead, explain and educate. The project you picked was on target and you prepared the girls so well for their role both by teaching them how it worked as well as role-playing how to interact with those who came to the table. Karen* told me she wished we could have stayed longer!"

This is a testament that every child wants to learn and every child can learn. Given the right materials, environment, experience, and presentation, every child will be able to learn successfully thereby being able to reach his or her potential. How will you ensure that your students reach their potential the next time you present them with material that could otherwise be dry and abstract? What will you do to ensure that it's presented in an exciting and relevant manner so that they will connect with it? That's definitely something to think about.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Professional Growth Just for Me at SMARTee Summit 2016

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Teachers are the worst audience."  If you have a bunch of teachers in the audience and you find that they are chatting away, it's most likely because they are not finding the speaker or activity very entertaining or relevant to their professional learning and growth.  The same thing applies to our students.  If our students do not find the learning to be relevant, they're not going to enjoy learning either. But what about when the professional learning is custom designed to meet their needs?

And that's what the SMART Technologies Global SEE (SMART Exemplary Educator) Summit 2016 was all about.  After a hard year's work of teaching - and everything else that we do in the field of education, teachers need time to recharge.  It's important to receive professional learning in a way that not just enables us, but encourages us, to collaborate with others in our field.  Sometimes, those of us who work in the field of Educational Technology feel alone or isolated,  as if others do not understand what we do or why we do it (which is an entirely separate discussion). And as much as I love the use of technology, it's never going to replace face to face learning in terms of social interaction.  It's for this reason that SMART brought 57 educators from around the globe to its headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

So what did we do during the five days that we were there?  The theme was "Teachers are Superheroes."  This is something that we educators know in the back of our minds, right?  Yet, it's important that others acknowledge this as well.  In addition, it's nice to feel appreciated.  Therefore, many of the activities revolved around the theme; from the superhero dinner, the decorations, icebreakers, and more. Of course, this was just the beginning.

Throughout the school year, I am often in contact with developers of various software at different companies, including SMART Technologies.  I appreciate the fact that these developers value what we educators have to say.  It's great actually being able to visit them in Calgary at HQ and meet them face to face.  The entire SMART family - the Executives, developers, engineers, and everyone else in between, was as welcoming as could be.  They truly value our input and put education at the top of their list.

And then there's the "Hackathon"...... (For those of you who don't know what a Hackathon is, click here.) Imagine that you are given the opportunity to be innovative, creative, and/or transform something from better to the best.  That's what the Hackathon at SMART is all about.  Currently in its third year, we SEEs have a chance to sit and collaborate with SMART developers and engineers.  It could be a piece of hardware or software that we are looking to develop.  Or, it could be taking something that is already in existence and transforming it to be even a better product.  It's the chance to say that  ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible.  This is probably my favorite part of summit.  So this year, we developed a... Oops!  I can't tell you that - sorry!

I have to mention the Superhero dinner too at the Calgary Zoo.  I don't think I've ever seen so many superheroes together at once in all of my life!  So many superheroes including but not limited to: Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and let's not forget Minnie Mouse, Pippi Longstocking and Santa Claus!  The spirit in the air was contagious!

It was also refreshing to take some time to learn offsite at Calgary's beautiful Heritage Park.  We spent part of the afternoon on a scavenger hunt learning about what life in the 1800's was like in western Canada.  Some of us took a boat ride on the S.S. Moyie while others went on a horse and buggy ride.  Just be sure to watch out where you step!

We were told time and time again, that we are the "Best of the Best of the Best," but I can honestly say that we educators only become great superheroes when we have sidekicks and superpowers that support our daily challenges in education.  We could not have done it without you, SMART.  So thanks for helping us defeat our challenges and make what seems impossible, possible.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ISTE 2016 - Are You Using Tech as Your Superpower?

From the 3 C's (Conversion, Curriculum, Collaboration), to digital playgrounds, from flying pigs to virtual reality, ISTE 2016 Denver was a conference not to be missed! There are many ways that I can make tech my "superpower."  (If you did miss ISTE 2016, please see this crowdsourcing sheet compiled by Tzvi Pittinsky (@TechRav) and other colleagues of mine. You will find notes and resources from over 50 sessions that people attended.) This year, I was fortunate to be a SMART Technologies Trade Show Teacher. Because of this opportunity, I spent more time in the Expo Hall than in various sessions. I spent a lot of my time on the giving end; whether it was networking with various educators on the use of EdTech in their classrooms or providing feedback to vendors whom I have a positive relationship with. I also met with a variety of vendors about the development of new technologies. Because I spent a lot of time in the Expo Hall, it was very easy to get caught up in the new fads and trends that are on display. I had to stop myself a moment and think to myself, "What is the purpose of these new tools? How are they going to affect my students' learning? Why should I buy them?" Going into the new school year, we need to remember that education comes first. After all, all of us superheroes need a plan, right?

Created by Bill Ferriter

This past year, I participated in a school leadership program.  One of the first things I learned about was "The Golden Circle: How Great Leaders Inspire Action."  Developed by Simon Sinek of the TED Talks, the "Golden Circle" focuses on first thinking about WHY we do things, followed by HOW and WHAT we do.  So how does this translate into use of EdTech?  As I mentioned above, it's very easy to get lost and caught up in all of the excitement of the newest tools or trends.  What we need to think about is WHY are we using the new tools or trends in our classrooms.  Why are you using Virtual Reality?  Why are you creating a Makerspace?  Is this something that is aligned to your 20/20 vision of Educational Technology integration?  Is this something that is going to extend student learning academically, socially, or emotionally?  It's a good idea to think about why you are implementing new technologies in your school and create a plan before you actually do so.  It seems like common sense, doesn't it?  Too often, administrators purchase technologies with government funding without a proper vision at hand.  Don't let that happen to you.  

I have recently accepted the position as Director of Educational Technology at a school for students with special needs. Part of me feels that there will be a huge learning curve as I am not a Special Needs teacher. On the other hand, if I focus on the "WHY" and a proper vision, my job will be that much easier. Putting education first before the technology software and hardware will make a huge difference.  In the past, I have found the websites teacherswithapps developed by Special Ed Teacher Jayne Clare and A4CWSN (Apps 4 Children With Special Needs) developed by parent Gary James extremely helpful.  They review many apps with a "fine tooth comb."  If an app on their websites receives a good rating, I know it's one of high quality.

Are you, your school, or your district in the process of designing a digital curriculum?  When I mentioned the 3 C's above, I was referring to Conversion (to mobile devices), Curriculum, and Collaboration which are components to choosing digital content and curriculum.  At ISTE, I had the honor and privilege of participating in a panel focused on the 3C's led by Dr. Kecia Ray of the Center for Digital Education (CDE) and ISTE Board Chair in partnership with Samsung Education.  During the panel, district leaders discussed ways that they are using the 3 C's in their schools in order to extend student learning. Technology should be used as a tool to engage, enhance, and extend student learning.  If there's no place for technology in the instruction, one should not feel pressured to use it.  I would recommend visiting CDE's website where you can access many high quality resources, including but not limited to: Succeeding With Education Transformation (which focuses on the 3 C's), Guide to Choosing Digital Content and Curriculum, and ISTE 2016: 5 Takeaways for EdTech Leaders.  

The above resources are merely a place to start....there are plenty more available.  I hope you find them useful as I have.

Remember - "Technology will not replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational,"says George Couros. So how will YOU be using tech as your superpower this coming school year?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pairing Best Learning Practices With Technology

When integrating Educational Technology, it is important to pair best learning practices to engage students and maximize their success.  Several best practices include: Learning Through Collaboration, Learning Culture, Problem Solving, Digital Content Implementation, and Information and Knowledge.  Research confirms that the use and frequency of teaching and learning best practices makes a difference in technology rich classrooms.  We want our students to learn independently, be creative, think critically as well as be successful socially and emotionally.  To make this happen, it is important to create a visible learning environment.  Visible learning entails that our instruction aligns to the the ways that our students learn outside of the classroom.  It's no surprise that one of the best practices is Digital Content Implementation.  We need to take into account that our students spend hours outside of school using various technologies, many of them participating in game based activities.  This is one reason that there has been a push for gamification, or game based learning in the classroom.  (You can also read my blogpost "Bring Gamification to Your Classroom With SMART Lab" by visiting SMART's EdBlog

Using gamification in the classroom is a great way to engage students, as it is a form of visible learning.  When developing games to implement in instruction, there are several things to keep in mind.  First of all, we need to remember that in order to maximize student success, teaching practices need to be put first, followed by educational software and hardware.  Second, we need to create an "active learning" environment for our students.  "Active learning" means our students engage with the content, they are active participants, and they collaborate with each other.  We cannot nor we should we not expect our students to simply listen and memorize the material.  Rather, we should encourage our students to help and demonstrate a process, analyze an argument, or apply a concept to a real-world situation.  We want our students to see themselves as their own teachers as this enables us educators to be the "guide on the side" as we act as facilitators instead of being the "sage on the stage."  According to Dr. Kecia Ray, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Education, "Active Learning environments are critical to student success and the use of technology in these spaces amplifies the level of engagement we can expect to see."

To create an "active learning" environment using gamification, I have used SMART lab (formerly SMART LAT), SMART Response, and Kahoot.  These tools have readily available content created by other teachers that can be used as is or can be modified to fit the needs of one's class.  When I enjoy creating content for my students, my students will enjoy learning it.  Utilizing Educational Technology has most certainly had a positive impact on my students' test scores.  Not only have my students enjoyed learning the content, but they also grasped the material at a greater extent than they did beforehand.  Out of the six sections in the grade, my class' reading comprehension skills were stronger when compared to the other classes that were not using Educational Technology to aid with game based learning.  The proof is in the pudding.

How much do you know about pairing best learning practices with technology in order to maximize teacher and student success?  You can test your knowledge by playing my SMART lab activity which you can download here.  Have fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lessons Learned From an Inspiring Teacher

Teachers are leaders who support us.  No matter what grade we are in - whether it's preschool through post-graduate and beyond, we are never too old or too smart to be inspired by a teacher.  My story takes place only a few years ago, when I was completing a year long course in Educational Technology Integration.
As part of the course, I was required to blog about my experiences and reflections of using various EdTech tools in the classroom as well as different kinds of student centered learning.  I never liked writing - especially creative writing.  I don't know whether this was due to my inability to focus or maybe it was my fear of being vulnerable.  People from all over the world would be reading my thoughts.  What if they didn't agree with them?
was fortunate that my course facilitator was Dr. Shira Leibowitz.  (You can find her on Twitter @shiraleibowitz.) Dr. Leibowitz realized my passion for EdTech integration through reading my blogposts (which eventually led to her hiring me as an EdTech Coach for her school) and she therefore  continued to challenge me to think and reflect on the topics that I blogged about by responding to my blogposts in the following way:
1) I notice....
2) I wonder.....?
3) What if.....?
4) How might....?
By posing these questions as a response to my blog, I was challenged to think critically and discover more about myself.  As teachers, it's our jobs to teach our students to become independent learners and think critically for themselves.  Spoon feeding them and taking the "easy way out," might make things easier in the moment, but it's not doing anything but an injustice for them and for us in the long run.   When we teach our students to think and discover on their own, not only are we challenging them to think critically, but we are also preparing the generation of leaders.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bring Gamification to Your Classroom With LAB Games from SMART

In recent years, there has been a push for gamification in the educational setting.  According to Jane McGonigal, game designer and author, playing games can have several benefits, which include: urgent optimism, social fabric, blissful productivity, and epic meaning. (You can learn more about benefits of playing games by watching Jane McGonigal's TED Talk entitled "Gaming Can Make a Better World."  Because of the push for gamification, SMART Technologies has developed the Lesson Activity Builder (LAB) for SMART Notebook 15.   Eventually, the LAB, which is HTML5 based,  will replace the Lesson Activity Toolkit, which is Flash based. (Future versions of SMART Notebook will no longer support Flash.)

So what is this new LAB all about?  And why is it so beneficial to your students?  As I mentioned above, SMART's new LAB brings gamification to the classroom.  As an educator, when I enjoy creating content for my students, my students are going to enjoy learning using that content.  That's what LAB is all about.  The best thing about LAB is that SMART has already designed the activities with some attractive and engaging themes.  All you have to do is just add your content and you're ready to bring it to your classroom for your students to enjoy.  It's that simple!

The LAB Activities or Games are best used for informal assessment.  You can add whatever content you want; whether it's math, science, social studies, english language arts, and foreign languages. At this point in time, there are currently several types of activities you can choose from in the LAB:
  • Super Sort - Students sort items into two groups.  The items disappear if they're sorted correctly, but they go back to be re-sorted if they're put in the wrong category.
  • Shout it Out! - Students use a web browser on their web enabled devices to connect to an activity and contribute words or images.
  • Rank Order - Students can arrange items into an order selected by the teacher.  
  • Flip Out - Students flip the cards over to reveal what the teacher has put on the other side.
  • Fill in the Blanks - Students drag and drop items to fill in the missing words, phrases or numbers in any passage.  
  • Match 'Em Up! - Students can match items by dragging and dropping.  
  • Label Reveal - This activity will help students learn the names of the constituent parts of the images the teacher chooses.
  • Speedup - Students race each other as they answer multiple choice questions provided by the teacher.  The faster they answer correctly, the faster they move ahead of others in a race to the finish.
Super Sort

Match 'Em Up!
 Label Reveal


To add an activity, you will need to open the LAB by pressing the toolbar icon  in the Notebook toolbar. The Add an Activity window opens. The LAB will take you step by step; you will have a variety of activities and themes to choose from. So just choose what works best for you, add your content, and you're good to go! SMART will continue to add more themes and LAB activities in future product updates in SMART Notebook. Those of you who like the activities in the LAT, please know that SMART will be working to create new LAB activities based on those, so make sure to stay tuned.

For those of you who are new to LAB, I would first recommend that you check out the approximately 500 LAB activities that are available on the SMART Exchange (SMEX) by visiting Why reinvent the wheel?  For those of you who are not familiar with the SMEX online community, it's a repository for a variety of high-quality, peer-reviewed digital content you can use with your classroom technology. You’ll find thousands of resources including Common Core State Standards correlated lessons for SMART Notebook collaborative learning software, question sets for SMART Response interactive response systems, links and other multimedia content. You can search for and browse content quickly and easily by subject, grade, curriculum, media type and popularity, as well as filter results according to the SMART products you have in your classroom.  
So have fun creating new LAB activities and games for your students.  You will give them a new meaning to learning as you bring gamification along with its various benefits into your classroom. Your students will be sure to thank you!