Friday, November 21, 2014

There's An APP for That!

There is always an “app” for everything it seems—too many to sort through. And it takes a lot of time to discover new apps, let alone learn how to use them well. How do you find apps that you use regularly?  My devices seem to have a ton of them—and a bunch that I hardly, if ever, use. But I also hate to remove them (yes, I am a saver—maybe on the verge of being a hoarder-LOL).

Here is the list of the Top 100 Apps for 2014. How many do you know about and use? This list was complied by Jane Hart from 1.038 votes from learning professionals from 61 countries worldwide.

Can you guess what the No 1 tool is for 6th year running (before you look at the slideshow)?

Twitter. Interesting—I think some people are still trying to figure out how and why to use Twitter.

Check out her list—there are some new ones that I need to find out more about as I still have room on my devices for more “stuff”.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014 from Jane Hart

You may also be interested in reading her blog post called
The Web is 25 years old today – so how has it changed the way we learn?
Updated 26 August 2014.

What's your favorite app? Did it make the Top 100 list? 


Have a great Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.

Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.
AEA PD Online Instructional Designer

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Science Lab Safety Learning Opportunities for Students.

While the Student Personalized Learning System is still in pilot phase we are working to add content that supports the curriculum.  This system now has Science Lab Safety content that  teachers of school districts could assign any or all of them to their students.   Here is the current listing:

  • Lab Safety: Chemistry
  • Lab Safety: General Science
  • Lab Safety: Biology
    Soon to come Physical Science content

    If you are interested contact a member of the AEA PD Online team to become a member of the pilot.

    Friday, November 14, 2014

    Moodle Moment: Diigo in Moodle

    Our Moodle Moment takes a look at two uses of Diigo within Moodle: 1) as a collaborative annotation tool, and 2) as a group bookmarking tool.

    The OLLIE lesson on Diigo can be found at

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Upcoming Courses (Dec. 1, 2014-Jan.15, 2015)

    See below for a list of upcoming online professional learning opportunities. To register, click on the activity

    number listed with each course. To conduct your own search for professional development classes, download the AEA PD Online app at or click here to go to the AEA PD Online catalog.

    Google Sites
    Register at 22012899991505
    Course Dates: Dec.1, 2014-Jan.26, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Pinterest: Using Pins, Boards, and More in Your Classroom
    Register at 22022299991507
    Course Dates: Dec. 3, 2014-Dec. 30, 2014
    Credit(s): 2

    Developing Student-Directed Learning
    Register at 22010499991501
    Course Dates: Dec. 11, 2014-Jan. 22, 2015
    Credit(s): 3 (renewal only)

    Register at 22017299991509
    Course Dates: Jan. 5-Feb. 27, 2015
    Credit(s): 2 (renewal only)

    Iowa Core Fraction Domain
    Register at 22023299991501
    Course Dates: Jan. 5-Feb. 16, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Pinterest in the Classroom
    Register at 22019999991511
    Course Dates: Jan. 5-Feb. 1, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Using Iowa AEA Online Databases in the Social Studies Classroom
    Register at 22006799991501
    Course Dates: Jan. 5-Feb. 16, 2015
    Credit(s): 3

    Using the Chromebooks in the Language Arts Classroom
    Register at 22022799991501
    Course Dates: Jan. 5-Feb. 9, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    MOLLIE: Blended Learning
    Register a22015099991504
    Course Dates: Jan. 7-Feb. 10, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    OLLIE: Technology for Online Instruction: Moodle
    Register at 22005399991502
    Course Dates: Jan. 7-Feb. 10, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Pinterest: Using Pins, Boards, and More in Your Classroom
    Register at 22022299991504
    Course Dates: Jan. 7-Feb. 3, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Building ELA Foundational Skills-The Voweletics Method
    Register at 22016699991504
    Course Dates: Jan. 12-Mar. 8, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Register at 22017299991510
    Course Dates: Jan. 12-Feb. 15, 2015
    Credit(s): 2 (renewal only)

    Introduction to Google Apps
    Register at 22007899991505
    Course Dates: Jan. 12-Feb. 15, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    Total Participation Techniques
    Register at 22020199991503
    Course Dates: Jan. 12-Feb. 13, 2015
    Credit(s): 2

    What Great Teachers Do Differently
    Register at 22020399991505
    Course Dates: Jan. 12-Feb. 20, 2015
    Credit(s): 3

    OLLIE: Introduction to the Online Learner
    Register at 22001399991505
    Course Dates: Jan. 14-Feb. 3, 2015
    Credit(s): 1

    Free Webinar Blended Learning Solutions for Language Learning Success from eSchool News

    Please join ESchool News for a Webinar on November 18th at 2PM ET on how to create effective digital and classroom-based solutions for ELL programs in any learning environment.

    Monday, November 10, 2014

    AEA PD Online: Live!

    AEA PD Online: Live! is a service of AEA PD Online and the Iowa Area Education
    Agencies.  We bring to Iowa educators on-demand professional development in a variety of formats, including webinars, presentations, round-table discussions, and recorded live events.
    Click here to see our calendar of upcoming events and registration links. In addition, AEA PD Online: Live! partners with many external providers of quality webinar series.  You can link to those partners in our event calendar.

    If your group would like help in creating a webinar email us at

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Games and Learning

    I received an email newsletter from Merlot (a curated collection of free and open online teaching, learning, and faculty development services contributed and used by an international education community.) and in reading it, one link lead to another, to another link, and so on...

    I arrived at a website with a very intriguing presentation made with Prezi. It was about games and learning--video type games and learning. It is worth taking a look, although it takes a few minutes to get through it--especially if you click on all the links and watch the embedded videos. But of course that is what made it so intriguing.

    Playing to Learn by Maria Andersen.

    What do you think? I think learning should have more fun in it. Research is telling us that learning happens when students are engaged and having fun. How can we do that without making the content seem trivial? How can it be done with authentic activities--so it doesn't seem contrived?

    Want more on this topic? Then check out this article from THE Journal: Five Skills That Games Teach Better Than Textbooks, by Dian Schaffhauser, 11.05.2014 .

    In the Spotlight

    Have you seen Osmo? It is used with an iPad and lets you "play outside the iPad"--so to speak. The Osmo website describes how Osmo works:

    "Osmo has a magical ability to turn physical objects and interactions into digital game elements. The technology that makes this possible is called Reflective Artificial Intelligence (AI), a phrase we created to describe the process that allows the iPad to make sense of what it sees. There are two main components of Reflective AI: the red Osmo reflector (a mirror), and the computer vision algorithms that process the data. Working together, the reflector and our computer vision software give the iPad the ability to integrate physical objects into our games in real time." (from

    Sounds complicated to me. But watch how kids interact with it:

    Pretty awesome! I think it will go on my Christmas list this year. I hope my grandkids let me play it with them. :)

     Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.
    AEA PD Online Instructional Designer

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014

    Best practices for implementing online and blended learning in K-12 school districts Webinar from eSchool News Nov 12.

    Register here

    Digital Citizenship Learning Opportunities for Students

    While the Student Personalized Learning System is still in pilot phase we are working to add content that supports the curriculum.  In this system are Digital Citizenship modules that can be assigned to middle level and high school level students. Teachers, administrators and counselors of school districts could assign any or all of them to their students.   Here is the current listing:

    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Literacy
    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Etiquette
    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Health and Wellness
    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Law, Rights and Responsibilities
    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Security
    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Commerce
    • Digital Citizenship: Digital Communication

    Soon to come K-2 Digital Citizenship and 3-5 Digital Citizenship.

    If you are interested contact a member of the AEA PD Online team to become a member of the pilot.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

    Personalized Learning at the iNACOL conference

    So an interesting thing happened this morning, as I began fielding some questions about our new Student Personalized Learning System from attendees at a conference... that I wasn't even at.  Come to find out that a colleague of ours (and current AEA PD Online Governing Board member), Bev Berns is presenting at the conference today.

    There are probably many questions about the system, so here is the skinny:

    What is a Personalized Learning System?

    It is a term we use to describe our online learning system for students.  It is different than a traditional learning management system (LMS), such as Moodle.  We also support a statewide Moodle system in Iowa, but there are needs students have that make this system necessary.

    What do you define as "Personalized Learning"?

    Good question... we actually don't set a definition.  One problem we have in Iowa is over-definition.  Groups throughout the state have latched on to different terms like "personalized learning", "blended learning", "flipped learning", "competency-based education", "standards-based education", "credit/component recovery", "career pathways"...

    Did I mention that we have quite a few terms?

    The problem is that none of these terms are defined to the point where there is calibrated agreement among its adherents.  This creates an enormous efficiency and scalability issue, as without common agreement and common systems-approaches, there is nothing for a teacher to tap into.  Essentially, a teacher either must recreate the wheel or purchase an expensive program.

    What does this system provide?  How is it different than an LMS like Moodle?

    LMSs traditionally are clunky and teacher/curriculum focused.  That is, they are engineered around a class, where part of the work is to pre-determine the end outcomes, and part is to set up preset collaborative experiences (like group work or discussion forums).  While those have their place, they are essentially the opposite of what most of the buzzword terms from above are all about.

    A personalized learning system is built around individual opportunities.  First, we break down learning into modules, including self-paced lessons, assessments, performance tasks, communities of practice, and attendable events.  By creating a common catalog of these items, aligning them with common standards, we allow districts, teachers, and even students to select appropriate items from the catalog to structure into a personalized learning opportunity.  That opportunity can take on any purpose from the buzzword terms above.

    Above all, the system must maintain a simple and intuitive user interface.  

    How does this change education?

    The two big changes is that with a common catalog, where teachers can easily add their own items, there is a robust number of potential items that can be taken and used for whatever the purpose.  That is the one part of personalized learning that everyone seems to agree on, is the number of choices for students is critical.

    The second big change is breaking down school structure from the traditional Carnegie unit into smaller modular pieces, which in turn can be built back up into learning opportunities of diverse sizes.  Having modular pieces available, a school could put together a series of learning modules (including lessons, assessments, tasks) to be completed over multiple years.  The work of the student is put together into a portfolio, emphasizing that learning is an ongoing process, not something solely relegated to a semester.

    So, you have it all built and ready to go, then?

    Well, not quite.  We actually have been building a personalized learning system for teachers for about a decade now, and it has undergone many different twists and turns.  This summer marked the point in time where we have split the systems into two (one for teachers and one for students), which will allow us to customize their capabilities to each audience.

    So, our current student system actually has most of the features from our Teacher Personalized Learning System.  We are in the process of customizing those layers this year (we are considering this to be a piloting year for us) in addition to building that robust catalog with some statewide content in the 21st century skills areas of the Iowa Core.  Next year we look to add Core area content to the catalog and add the social aspects of the system.

    What are the biggest issues regarding this system currently?

    Much like any other efforts, funding is a huge issue.  During our pilot phase, the system is available at no extra cost to Iowa schools (we use our other revenue mechanisms to cover the cost of this development, but that cannot happen forever).  This is partially on design; if costs are getting in the way of schools transforming the way they structure learning, then it is most unfortunate.

    But, there is a tendency within education to need a "polished system" before embracing it, much like districts investing huge money into credit recovery programs or curricular textbooks.  Simply put, while our plans are to grow the system's capabilities as practitioners grown in their understanding of what personalized learning looks like in schools, there are many districts that want a final solution right now.

    To help meet the demands for functionality and curriculum, our efforts this year are to seek out partnerships.  We are off to a great start with many local partners, including Character Counts in Iowa and the Institute for Excellence & Ethics.  Other state agencies (whether local districts or statewide entities) that would like to partner are encouraged to contact us to find out more.  This can be to discuss either financial partnerships for access to the system, or in-kind contributions to development.

    Other links of interest:
    One-Page Handout (PDF)
    Sneak Peek at System Functions
    • Sample Press from Launch of System KIMT | Des Moines Register

    Monday, November 3, 2014

    Update for Leaders - Don't Get Stuck with the Wrong Learning Management System

    One area where many school leaders have invested time and money recently is looking at a schoolwide learning management system (LMS).  The LMS is very beneficial for putting all of your learning together into one spot for each class, and can typically be used for a variety of different uses among teachers (whether they are incorporating some online learning components or not).

    LMSs can be expensive however, with some charging up to $10 per student for the hosting and support that goes along with the system.  In addition, many teachers get frustrated if a system isn't supported locally by people they know, regardless of how slick it works.  AEA PD Online provides free LMS access for all Iowa schools in Moodle, and it is a scaleable option (one teacher can use it or your entire district).

    While we provide the hosting, support and maintenance on the site, however, some districts are looking for very specific features, including integration with their Student Information System.  We can help advise you on the right product for you, even if it isn't our Moodle system.  Consult with us to find the right solution.

    Below is a quick spreadsheet comparing the basic LMS tools, including Moodle, Canvas, Google Classroom, Schoology, and Edmodo.  In addition, check out our online lessons on An Overview of LMS Tools, as well as Why We Support Moodle, and How You Can Use Moodle in Your Classroom.

    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Moodle Moment: Zoom

    Our Moodle Moment focuses on a synchronous tool this time, as we take a look at Zoom.  Zoom is a lightweight videoconferencing and screensharing tool supported by the AEAs.  Similar to Skype, it allows multiple users and easy recording.

    While there is a paid version that allows you to have longer meetings (> 1 hour), the free version also the same basic features.  It integrates with phone conferencing, and participants do not need an account to join a meeting (not even a free account).

    Below is the complete overview of the video and all its features back when we first  started using the tool in March.