Assistive Technology

This week I had the opportunity to attend Charting the C's, an assistive technology conference. In my new role I was asked to be part of our Assistive Technology team here in Princeton. It is my goal to update our Tiger Tech Tips website with Assistive Tech resources throughout the year for all staff. We have an excellent team of dedicated educators including Mary Ward (PS), Amy Smith (HS), Dillon Naumann (HS), Jen Gross (MS) and Erin Dohrmann. We all attended this week's conference and came away with great ideas to share with staff and students.

So what is Assistive Technology? It is the use of any type of technology (not necessarily electronic) that helps a student overcome a barrier to their learning. If you have been in an IEP lately, Assistive Technology was probably considered for your student.

Here are a few of my takeaways for the week, and a fun learning opportunity for your classroom to try out in the next month!

Supporting ALL students with mobile devices

As our district moves to more and more 1:1 devices, looking at how we can support ALL students is vital. Both iPads and Chromebooks have accessibility features. 

To access these features on a chromebook, click on the settings in the bottom right corner of your screen. From here you can select accessibility options such as screen magnifier, high contrast, larger cursor and more. 
Click here for more information about Chromebook and Chrome Browser accessibility features. 

To access these features on your iPad go to the settings icon, select General and then Accessibility. From here you access to a large variety of features. 

Click here for more information from Apple about all their features. Scroll to the middle of the screen where you can select information about features for vision, hearing, physical and motor skills, and learning and literacy. 

Amazing Alexa

Alexa is one of the newest devices from Amazon. It is a voice activated search device that allows the user to search the web and control other devices and apps with just simple voice commands. For students with disabilities, Alexa provides the opportunity to interact with knowledge without the barrier of having to type or control a mobile device. I attended a session on Alexa presented by a woman who was paralyzed from the neck down. She presented with a woman from the Courage Kenney Instititue where they use devices like Echo, Echo Dot and Google Home on a regular basis. The presentation included many fun and innovative ways Alexa can be used at home and in the classroom.

I was so excited about what I was learning, and what I found through some quick Google searches that I purchased and Echo Dot for myself. Of course we will be using it at home but I am also planning to bring it to school to test out ways it can be used in different classrooms. I've found many great resources with ideas I'd like to test our with you and your students! Let me know if you'd like to schedule a time with our Echo Dot in your classroom! I'll come with a list of ideas, games and activities we can try out with your students. 

Some of the resources I've found are listed below, let me know if you try any of these yourself!

Ask Alexa pdf - common questions to ask Alexa

Alexa: Your New Teacher Assistant - a great article on classroom uses for Alexa

Clearly this is just the very tip of the iceberg of what there is to share about Assistive Technology. Watch for future blog posts about how innovative Assistive Technology to use in your classroom. Check our page on the Tiger Tech Tips website frequently as well! Feel free to share your ideas and solutions so we can share them with others. 


Closing the Tabs - Mindfulness for Teachers

I feel it's safe to assume that this picture represents a large majority of our staff....if this is you, read on to learn why it's important to close those tabs now and then to be more mindful. 

Last weekend I was able to attend a great trainer's conference, our first speaker spoke all about Mindfulness, for teachers.  Entering into this long weekend, it's my hope you can take some of these resources and put them to use in your personal or classroom life. 

So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is closing the tabs, it's not focusing on what's coming up next or what just happened. It's focusing on what is happening right now. Can you imagine if we could get all our students, and ourselves, to focus on what is happening in the moment and not what will happen tonight or what happened last night? Sounds great, right?! 

Check out a few resources below to get you and your students to a more mindful, productive and calm state. 

For many mindfulness means deep or focused breathing. Even just recognizing your breath in a quiet room can get your to that mindful state. GoNoodle has several excellent mindfulness and breathing videos that do the work for you. Sit back with your class and give yourself a moment to re-energize for the day. And yes, there's even "an app for that!" Here's few; 10% Happier, Calm, Insight Meditation Timer and Headspace

These last months go so fast, my hope is you will be able to find something that works for you to get a little more peace and calm as we close out another amazing year. 

If you'd like to dive even deeper to mindfulness, check out 
Sarah, the executive director is a Minnesota teacher and provides a wealth of resources on the topic. 

Innovation @477 This Week - 4/7/17

Breakout Fever

BreakoutEDU is happening in classrooms across the district, Primary - High School! The administrators even checked it out this week! BreakoutEDU is the perfect way to have your students use critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration skills while reviewing content, learning something new or simply building community. To learn more about BreakoutEDU in Princeton, click here

Nicole Lehman's class conquered the Attack of the Locks (Star Wars themed) breakout during their acceleration class. Knowledge of roman numerals, musical notes, and reading a new language were put to the test!

The winning admin team! They broke out of the Faculty Meeting breakout in record time, leaving the other team still looking for clues!

All the fourth graders are trying hard to save Captain Digital Citizen's passwords in this game. Mrs. A. Ruzek's group was the first to actually breakout! They did an amazing job of working together and using their knowledge of Digital Citizenship to breakout!


Teachers across the district are busy refreshing and learning new EdTech skills! We've had several BINGO winners already! Congrats to everyone who has already won BINGO! I'm excited about all the extra calls, emails and questions in the hall I've received as teachers are looking to stretch their skills to win! Remember you can win multiple times until you BLACKOUT your board!


Seesaw is an app and website dedicated to student driven portfolios. Our Primary and Intermediate schools currently have access to the Pro features through a free Seesaw for Schools trial in place for the rest of the school year. We will be continuing this subscription in the new school year. All teachers at PS and IS will have an account set up (if they don't already) and training will continue to use this dynamic tool. Seesaw allows students ownership and independence in creating and sharing their work with an audience. Parents are able to connect with their student's account to see what learning in being done at school. Teachers have one place to collect student work, track performance, communicate with parents and students and teach students vital 21st Century Skills in a safe place.

Click here to see how Seesaw is being used in classrooms in our district!

Teachers at EC, MS and HS can click here to try out Seesaw Plus for one month! Seesaw is a great choice for all grades! If you use it, let me know!

What Makes a Genius?

This week I had the privilege of co-teaching a Genius Hour lesson with Samantha Heitke, our gifted and talented coordinator, in Janna Ruzek's Kindergarten class. We had a great discussion about how anyone can be genius when they have an idea and are willing to work hard to make their idea work! We put this to the test by taking out the Lego Learn to Learn kit and tried creating a wheelchair. The biggest hurdle in this challenge is that the Lego kit does not have any actual wheels! Students had to look at their pieces in a creative and innovative way to make their project work. Each student created their own version and did a fantastic job of trying new things and persevering until their design was created to their liking! After a gallery walk to see everyone's designs, we decided we we were all Geniuses because of a willingness to take an idea and work hard!