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Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 20:05
I am very excited to share that I have started my new job as Director of Curriculum at Keys School in Palo Alto. Over the summer the faculty read the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly. As a way to integrate their Design Thinking model into our teacher work week, we are going to use the model to reimagine our Back to School Night. 

We will have 3 hours on the first day and 1 hour two days later to complete the process. Here is our plan. (I would welcome your suggestions or ideas for improving upon it!) It is based on the Stanford Design Thinking model which is outlined in the book and which I have blogged about previously.

Groups Part One: We will create groups with as much diversity across grade levels, experience levels, points of view etc.

Empathize - Experience what the “user” experiences

Groups will break into pairs and interview each other about their BTSN experience as a teacher, as a parent, etc.
One pair will look at parent survey feedback.

Empathy Map:
After the interviews, participants will fill out an Empathy Map summarizing what they heard in the interview into four quadrants:
  • Say - What are some quotes and defining words your interviewee said?
  • Do - What actions and behaviors did you notice?
  • Think - What might the interviewee be thinking (that s/he didn’t say)?
  • Feel - What emotions might your interviewee be feeling?

We will post the Maps around the room - Everyone will do a gallery walk.
People will return to their groups and complete 1 Empathy map that summarizes everything you saw.

Groups Part 2:
We will reconfigure groups so that they are more homogeneous by school (The Lower School and Middle School are on separate campuses and have separate Back to School Nights).

Define - Come up with an ACTIONABLE problem statement

Give out a Point of View Statement Handout where faculty come up with adjectives to describe the user and verbs to describe what the user needs and insights into why based on this blog post.

Faculty write out a Problem Statement:  User + Need + Insight

Ideate - Focus on idea generation

Groups will stand up and try to generate 100 ideas in 10 minutes and write them out on Chart Paper.
We will post the lists around the room.

Post-it Voting 
Give 5 dots to each person. Have people walk around the room and put dots on their favorite ideas.
Participants look around the room at the ideas that have the most votes.

Participants return to their groups and choose one idea to prototype (the ideas does not have to be from their original list and more than one group can choose the same idea)

Prototype - Getting ideas out of your head and into the physical world.

Groups create a prototype of their idea. Prototypes can be anything that takes a physical form:
a schedule
a handout
a role-playing activity
a space
an object
a video

Test - Refine the solution and make it better

Groups share their prototypes with everyone.
Participants fill out a feedback grid for each idea.
We look at the feedback and determine what we are actually going to try at BTSN.
(We follow up BTSN with a survey to further test prototype and iterate for next year.)

So that's the plan so far. I have about two weeks before I put it into action. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or resources that might help me improve upon it.


Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "design thinking, dtk12, dtk12chat"
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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 10:18
I am really excited to be applying for the 2014 Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View California this summer. I have wanted to become a Google Certified Teacher for years, but until now, I have not been available on the days the academy was being held. 

This year I am moving to California just in time to attend the Mountain View Academy at the end of July. (Beginning July 1st I am going to be the Curriculum Director for Keys School in Palo Alto!) Of course, the program has become much more competitive over the years. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be accepted.

As part of the application I had to create a one minute video that answers the question: "How do you innovate in the classroom or educational community to generate positive change?”

This is what I came up with. I hope you like it. Wish me luck!

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "#GTAMTV, Google Teacher Academy, Innovat..."
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Date: Friday, 28 Feb 2014 10:44
This morning I helped facilitate our second (annual?) Teachers Unplugged session at the NAIS conference. This is an Edcamp style unconference that allows the participants who show up to define the conversations that they want to have. Among a sea of stand and deliver presentations, Teachers Unplugged is a chance to connect with other independent educators attending the conference and discuss issues that we are all grappling with.

This is something you can run inside your own school at a faculty meeting with teachers or in a classroom with students. A number of participants asked me to list out the steps so that they could try it at home, so here they are.

I hope this is helpful. I welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions!

Set Up:

  • Easels with chart paper or white boards or a google form set up for people to propose topics.
  • 3-5 Circles of chairs or tables set up for different discussions


  • Participants arrive and write down topics that they are interested in discussing.
  • Participants also vote for the topics that they are most interested in (the ones they wrote down and the ones others wrote down)
  • Explain the "rules" of an unconference.
    • Who ever shows up is meant to be there
    • If no one comes to your discussion, go to another one
    • The law of two feet - if the discussion isn't what you thought it was going to be, go to another one.
  • One organizer/facilitator runs an icebreaker that allows participants to introduce themselves to eachother
  • While the icebreaker is going on, the other organizer(s) find the most popular topics and assign them to different tables.
  • Participants choose the discussion circles in which they want to participate.
  • Participants discuss the topics for about 20 minutes and then (if there is time), they move to another circle (or stay where they are if they want to continue the conversation).

Wrap Up

  • Ask participants to share with the entire group something they learned.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "#naisac14, edcamp, NAIS, unplugged"
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 14:03
Andrew Vorzimer / Creative Commons license
I am excited to share that my family and I are moving to California this summer. I am looking for a job at an independent school in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am open to both teaching and administrative positions, particularly as a curriculum director/dean of studies or as a middle school teacher. If you know of any openings or can give me any advice for my search, I would greatly appreciate it. You can find my resume and other pertinent information on my website: www.lizbdavis.com.  Thanks!
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 29 Nov 2013 12:40
You may be hearing a lot about Design Thinking lately (maybe just from me ;-). In my last post I laid out a Design Thinking lesson plan that I used in one of my classes. Here are a few of my favorite things about this process of learning and discovery.

1. Design thinking begins with problem finding. Learners might have a general idea of what they want to learn more about. However, it is only through interviews, observations and research that students discover what the problem really is. This makes it very learner-centered. It isn't the teacher asking students to solve the problem. It's the students coming up with the problem themselves.

2. Design thinking is not a linear process. Once students create a prototype and test it out, they may discover they actually have the problem wrong and have to go back to the beginning to redefine it. I think this is really an important element of the process because when a student encounters failure - it isn't the end of the line. It is just a faulty step along the way.

3. Design Thinking is fun. It gets kids off their feet. They use colorful post-it notes and sharpies. Who doesn't love a purple sharpie? They race to think of as many ideas as they can in a limited amount of time. They wander around like spies, collecting observational data on unsuspecting people. It is an active and exciting process.

4. Design Thinking is real. People in the "real" world really use this process in their profession. This is a skill that students can use throughout their lives, not just in the classroom.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 09:28
Design Thinking is a problem solving methodology used by people all over the world to come up with new ideas. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how to integrate this approach into education. This summer I took two Online courses to learn more about the process. I am very interested in ways to use this approach in my own teaching.

This fall I decided to apply this approach to my 7th grade Digital Citizenship unit which focuses on cyberbullying. It worked really well. There are many approaches to the Design Thinking Process. I chose to use this process from the Stanford Design School.

Here is my lesson plan. If you are interested in giving this a try at your school, I am happy to answer any questions.

Cyberbullying Design Thinking Activity (for 7th graders)

  1. Present the idea “How might we end Cyberbullying?”
  2. Explain the Design Thinking Process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype,
  3. Tell students they are going to be interviewing each other to find out what their peers know/have experienced about cyberbullying.
  4. Divide students into groups of three. Students interview each other for 4 minutes each.
    • Student A interviews student B, Student C scribes
    • Student B interviews student C, Student A scribes
    • Student C interviews student A, Student B scribes
  5. Student share their notes and summarize what they have learned. What common themes did they see? (5 minutes)
  6. Each group shares with the entire class a summary of their discoveries.
  7. Individually students brainstorm 10 questions they still have about cyberbullying - Put on Post-it Notes.
  8. Put Post-it notes up around the room.
  9. Each student walks around and picks 3-4 questions to research before the next session.


  1. Students share with the class what they learned about cyberbullying from their research.
  2. The class uses this empathy map to take notes as people share.
  3. Groups generate 5 new “How might we" questions that are more specific (based on the research collected.)
  4. Groups share their new “How might we” questions with the class.
  5. Each group chooses a How might we question to focus on (It doesn’t have to be one of their own and it can be the same question as another group).
  1. Each group on chart paper brainstorms 100 ideas for solutions in 15 minutes.
  2. Post chart paper and all students look at all solutions.
  3. Each student has 5 post it notes and votes on the top 5 ideas they see (different color for each group).
  4. Groups pick one idea to work on.

We didn't have time to build a prototype. So instead students created a commercial for their product.
They had to address the issues of cyberbullying in the commercials in order to convince people to purchase their product.

Groups share their commercials.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 02 Aug 2013 00:26
Change is hard. Trying new things engages a fear of the unknown that makes most people uncomfortable. It has been my job to help my faculty and students to work their way through their discomfort to a place where they can see the benefits of implementing new ideas and programs.  

Here are a few of the ways that I have found success managing resistance to change.
  • Celebrate small victories and honor each step they take towards trying something new. As a teacher in the trenches myself, I understand that what we think will work in theory doesn’t always work in practice. 
  • Empathize with the logistical difficulties of making change and help people to find ways to balance both sides. 
  • Understand that not all change is effective. I encourage faculty and students to question change as long as they do so thoughtfully. 

Ultimately, I believe that if good pedagogy is at the core of the change, and there is enough support for new ideas, educators will move from resistance to acceptance over time. It is my job to help them through that process.

What strategies do you use to help people adapt and accept change?
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 20 May 2013 10:24
     First of all, I have finally found another word for 21st Century. I have struggled with this for a while, "21st century" is such an overused term, especially since we have been living in the 21st century for 13 years. Then it hit me, the 21st century is TODAY, right now! By labeling it anything other than that, we make it feel like we have time to get there. We have no more time, we are here.

    I have also been thinking a lot about ways to simplify my vision of what schools should be doing(see my last post) and what learners should be doing. Last night I was sitting down with my cousin, who is a college professor, and my husband, who is a software engineer, trying to boil down the essential skills learners need to succeed in college and the workplace. This is what we came up with.
5 Things Learners TODAY Should Be Doing:


1. Inquiring
Asking questions about ideas and issues throughout the local/school school community.
Asking questions about ideas and issues throughout the world.
2. Investigating
Finding and researching answers and solutions using the people in the local/school community.
Finding and researching answers and solutions using the internet and other online tools.
3. Collaborating
Working and connecting effectively with classmates and teachers face-to-face and online.
Working and connecting effectively with people around the world face-to-face and online.
4. Creating
Building, Designing, Inventing and Producing solutions to local/school problems.
Building, Designing, Inventing and Producing solutions to global problems.
5. Communicating
Using writing, video, art, and other media to share solutions with the local/school community.
Using writing, video, art, and other media to share solutions with a global community.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 11 May 2013 15:49
I began this year's iPad pilot fully expecting that we would be come an iPad school eventually. The term "pilot" when used as an adjective is defined as an "experiment or test before using something more widely." When used as a noun it is "the person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft." As the pilot of this iPad pilot, it has definitely been a wild ride. Over the course of this experience my opinion has shifted considerably.

There were three reasons that I thought the iPad would be the best device for us as a school.

1. We would all have common apps that we could use for projects.
Of these three, my biggest shift in thinking has been around number one. This became even more clear to me yesterday at a meeting of the AISNE tech directors. I thank Jeremy Angoff  for helping me to expand my thinking here. I wrote in an earlier post that I felt the iPad was getting ahead of the pedagogy and that the learning should come first. Rather than thinking about our projects as defined by the tool, I should be defining the project by the goals and letting the students find the best tool for the job.

For example, my goal with my Explain Everything project was to have students create a movie illustrating one of the Greek myths that we study. But this doesn't have to be done with Explain Everything (as awesome as that App is). If we focus on a goal  of creating a 2-4 minute video that explains the key points of a myth, the students can decide on the best tool for the job. I think we can still offer suggestions and support, but I know that students will also do that for each other and for their teachers.

From a technology perspective this approach gets kids thinking about the goals of the project and forces them to find the tool and figure it out. Those are key skills that we all need to have TODAY (see my earlier post on the term "21st Century"). In addition, it frees the teacher from having to know the tools, which is particularly helpful for our less technically comfortable faculty. Because each device will have a different set of options, the choices students make will be more varied, and perhaps even more interesting and creative.

2. The iPad has a low profile, making it less of a barrier to class discussions around a table.
Almost three quarters of my students have chosen to purchase a keyboard for their iPad, thus making this benefit moot. Admittedly the screen is still smaller than a full size laptop, but it still gets in the way.

3. The iPad touch screen and size allows for reading and annotating books and articles.
I don't have an answer for this one. The iPad is still better for annotating and reading. I would imagine that some students will choose to have two devices, an e-reader of some kind and a laptop (If they can afford it). Other students will read the old fashioned way and annotate using a highlighter and a pen.

We aren't quite done with our pilot. We are taking one more year to make this decision. It will be interesting to see where we land. At some point the plane is going to run out of fuel. (Couldn't resist the metaphor ;)

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Apr 2013 16:50


Preparing students to interact in a global economy. 

In order to prepare students to work with an international community of colleagues we need to provide them with opportunities to interact with people from around the world. Teachers also need experiences collaborating globally. Online social networks, such as Twitter, and  Facebook, provide teachers with a way to meet colleagues from around the world and around the country. These Online relationships in turn provide opportunities for classrooms to connect.

Preparing students to navigate and sift through an excess of information. 

In order to prepare students to search for and evaluate information, we need to provide them with opportunities to do just that. We need to ask students to find answers to ungoogleable questions and then have them not only share their answers, but also describe their search processes and defend their sources.

Preparing students to contribute to and consume in a media rich market. 

In order to prepare students to consume and create multi-media messages, student should be both evaluating and creating videos, podcasts and blogs. Students need to learn to be both educated consumers and producers of these messages. 

Preparing students to tackle new innovations. 

In order to prepare students to face and conquer new technology tools, we need to provide them with opportunities to solve their own problems. We can't provide them with step by step directions, but instead encourage them to seek out new tools, figure them out and communicate their learning with classmates.

Preparing students to think creatively, take risks and come up with new ideas. 

In order to encourage students to discover new ideas, we need to create learning environments that encourage and support not just failure, but also recovery from that failure.

Preparing students for digital citizenship. 

In order to teach students how to interact online, we must openly discuss issues of privacy, copyright, and online behavior. Students need to understand the difference between private and public spaces and how to behave in each place. They also need to learn how to interact online in responsible and ethical ways.

I actually wrote the majority of this post back in 2008. What I said then applies today. Have schools made any progress over the last 5 years? I think so. Are we there yet? Not quite.

Is your school doing these things? Have I left anything essential off the list? I welcome your ideas, questions and comments.
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Apr 2013 17:36
I know it is a mixed metaphor, but rolling out iPads this year has been a mixed experience. In some cases it has transformed learning, in other cases it hasn't. In many cases trying to make the iPad fit the curriculum has been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Yes, I'm over doing it with the cliches on this post, but when the shoe fits...

Using iPads in my 7th grade English class has lead to some really interesting projects, and some great ways to make the classroom interactive. But at other times the iPad just isn't the right tool for what we want to accomplish. The bottom line is that the "what" has to drive the "how." Educators need to ask themselves, "What do I want students to know?" before they ask, "How will we get there?" Sometimes the "how" involves an iPad, sometimes it doesn't.

Where does this leave our iPad pilot? That is a good question. I wish we could find one tool to do it all, or that we could afford for students to have multiple devices. Perhaps there is a way to find that happy medium, but along the way I have to remind myself to ask the right questions.
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Apr 2013 17:15
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 09:28
For the first time ever, NAIS is offering two unconference sessions within their regular program called Teachers Unplugged. At these sessions attendees are going to have the opportunity to shape their own learning. We will have multiple round tables and a variety of topics offered for discussion by those who show up.

This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I am helping to facilitate the process, but the reality is that is totally out of my hands. I have run many unconferences, edcamps, and edubloggercons and I have the same feelings everytime. Thus far it has always worked out, but letting go of that control is always disconcerting.

If you are at the #NAISAC13 conference this year, I hope you will come by and help lead or participate in a conversation. Several of the organizers are going to be wearing t-shirts to encourage your questions. Please take a moment to stop us and ask. The sessions are going to run before and after lunch in Hall G.

Here are a few of the topics that people have suggested they might talk about.
  • Geometry, math, technology in math instruction, math courses beyond calculus
  • Plans for a maker space in their school to support STEAM initiatives? 
  • New practices best practices in STEM/STEAM initiatives
  • Public-Private Partnership models (school-school and/or organization/consortium)
  • Bridging Conversations re ""Diversity & Inclusion"" & ""Teaching and Learning"" (ie intentional cross-cultural competency goals)
  • Global collaborations in the K-8 curriculum
  • 1:1 laptop program
  • professional development
  • social media in the classroom
  • social media for educators"
  • How to build the Intersection of Rigor and 21st Century Skills"
  • Starting your own blog
  • Going paperless
  • iPads or Chromebooks
  • Making change in a traditional school
  • Getting the best out of middle school boys
Please check out this form to add your own topic.

If you are planning to attend, please take a moment to let us know what topics are most interesting to you.
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "#edcampIS, #NAISAC13, #NAISUP, unconfere..."
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Date: Friday, 16 Nov 2012 10:02
I recently learned about two iPad Apps that allow you to get immediate feedback from your classes. They both work really really well.

Nearpod puts teachers in control of student iPads

1. Nearpod allows the teacher to control what students see on their iPad. Teachers can upload any PDF file and Nearpod separates each page into a slide. Students sign into a "room" and the teacher takes control of the slides that each student sees. If that wasn't cool enough, Nearpod also allows you to intersperse different types of interactive questions throughout the presentation to check for understanding. I tried this recently with a grammar lesson and it was great. I was able to see who was getting the concepts and who wasn't immediately.

Space Race on Socrative
2. Socrative allows the teacher to create interactive quizes which students answer on their iPads. Students can see immediately if they are right or wrong. You can also show a graph of the answers after students have responded and use that to spur discussion about the topic. Socrative will send you data from the session in an excel file with each student's response. The other fun feature is the Space Race which puts students in competition to answer questions first and win the race.

Both of these Apps are free, Nearpod allows you pay to upgrade for more features such as large response groups and the ability have more students in a session, store more slideshows and share them with others.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ipad, iPad Apps, ipad pilot"
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Date: Monday, 12 Nov 2012 21:39
Field Report Locations
The Silent History is "a new kind of novel." The App itself is free, but then you have to pay for the books within the App. The book is serialized and each installment is delivered to your iDevice on a daily basis (except weekends). You must wait 8 (painful) hours between each piece of the story.

A science fiction novel set in the future about a phenomenon of "Silent" children, children who are born without speech. The story is told through "witnesses" who recount their various experiences with these kids. Each episode features a different perspective at a different point in history. There are 6 books which tell the story from 2011 - 2043. You can purchase the books separately for 1.99 or all 6 for $8.99.

Field Report from South Beach, Miami FL
In addition to the story itself. The App uses geolocation to point you to "Field Reports." In order to read a field report, you must be in exactly the spot where it was written. Thus far I have been able to access three reports. One led me to a clearing in the woods above a middle school not to far from where I teach. The other two were on South Beach in Miami. (I was able to check them out when I was down there for my my Grandmother's birthday.) The reports themselves rely heavily on you being in that spot. It is a pretty creepy and cool experience to stand there and read them.

In many ways this is a book like any other, yet reading it this way makes it something entirely different. If you start now you will be able to marathon through the first book (lucky you) and a little bit of the second. Then you will be just like me, waiting each day for the next installment.

I think this is a brilliant idea that has great potential. Children's books in this form could really help kids get excited about reading! I am certainly loving it.

If you do start reading the series, let me know what you think.
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 11 Nov 2012 18:23
In addition to piloting iPads this year, we are also looking at the new Samsung Chromebook. For only $249 you can access your Google Drive and the web through your Chrome browser. Given that we are a Google Apps for Education school and I am a very heavy user of Google Docs, Presentations, Forms and Spreadsheets, this machine fits my needs perfectly. Plus it is the size of a Macbook Air and weighs only 2.5 pounds.

I can't say it could replace my Macbook Pro for things like editing video, plus the screen is a bit small, but for just about everything else it is the perfect little tool. I'm hoping to get a class set at the end of the year and try them with the kids. I'll let you know how it goes.

Are you using Chromebooks at your school? I would love to hear about your experience.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Nov 2012 20:22
I just attended a (fabulous) conference where the Key Note speaker made the point that technology is just a tool. Now believe it or not, I have heard that before. I have even said it myself. I understand the point that everyone is trying to make. It isn't really about the technology it is about the pedagogy, technology should be like oxygen,  the technology shouldn't come first, etc. etc. etc.

All of that is true, but really technology is not just a tool. Marshall McLuhan famously said "The medium is the message." The technology tools we use impact teaching and learning in more ways than we realize. We use these tools as status symbols (as I write this on my brand new Chromebook) and as political statements (are you a mac or a pc?). The tools we use send many messages about who we are as learners and teachers and schools. Are you a 1 to 1 laptop school, an iPad school, a virtual school, are you an innovative teacher, a traditional teacher, are you a 21st century teacher?

We shouldn't fool ourselves that these things don't matter. They do. The more we are aware of the messages we send through the tools that we use, the better able we are to send the right messages.

Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "edtech, ideas and questions, reflections..."
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012 13:50

1. Handwriting Recognition - WritePad really works! I have been on the lookout for a good iPad App that will turn handwriting to text and this one really works. It will convert your writing to typed text as you go. It also syncs to Dropbox and Google Drive! It is pricey at 9.99, but if you prefer to take notes by hand, this could be a really useful App to own.

2. Grading on the iPad Learnboost.com is a free Online grading website 
that works pretty nicely on the iPad. I like it because I can enter my grades from any computer or device and, because it is web-based, I can access those grades anywhere. Learnboost also allows you to weight categories and print reports about individual students. There is also funcitonality to add lesson plans and connect to Google Apps.
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Oct 2012 15:51
I am looking forward to attending and presenting at the Google Apps for Education New England Summit being held at Burlington High School in Burlington, MA on November 3rd and 4th. They have even listed me as a "Spotlight Speaker" and people who know me know how much I like to be in the Spotlight ;-) I will be presenting on Apps for Ed on the iPad.

I do think it is going to be a great event and Google is offering a $50 discount to the event if you use the promotional code INVITE and an additional $10 off group registrations when you use the code INVITEGROUP.

I hope to see you there.
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "googleapps google apps"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Oct 2012 16:41
As many of you know, I work in a boys school and we often struggle to keep our boys reading for pleasure. The Reading Zone by Nancy Atwell has inspired me to do more independent reading projects with my 7th grade English students. As both assessment and incentive, we have started a blog called Books For Boys. Students will be posting reviews of the books that they love. Eventually there will be book reviews from the entire student body. 

I hope this blog can help others find books that boys will love to read. Please check out Books For Boys and leave a comment. We would especially like to hear from other kids who have read the same book. Visitors can leave their review as a comment on any post. 
Author: "Liz Davis (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "books, books for boys, independent readi..."
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