Finding time for all the things

In collaboration with Invzbl, all opinions are my own

As educators look back over the past couple of school years, the way that we teach and the activities that we do in our classrooms have changed a lot. When schools closed in March of 2020 and we shifted to fully virtual learning, teachers had to adapt quickly. They had to shift away from typical classroom procedures and completely rethink how to prepare for class with new tasks that had not been imagined before. 

There were uncertainties in many aspects of teaching. More than just focusing on the lesson of the day, teachers had to think about how to structure the lesson to account for students logging in and interacting in the virtual space. It took effort and caused frustration to figure out how to best manage time, especially if students didn’t have access to Wi-Fi or reliable, working devices. We had to work through those challenges, always having a backup plan in place in the event of a technology glitch. 

We had to ensure that all students were able to participate in learning, and if students did not have access, we had to find ways to provide access and resources to our students and their families. Even though we are back in our classrooms again and many of these challenges have diminished, there are still issues when it comes to devices and the learning spaces for our students. One is making sure that our students have a safe and clean learning environment. We must be even more mindful of cleaning/disinfecting their devices, making sure that the devices are working for our students, and providing a safe/sanitized space for students to learn.

When it comes to the use of technology in our schools, there will likely always be challenges. Whether certain websites cannot be accessed because of school network restrictions, students are without a device because of repairs, or we lose time because of cleaning procedures that are ineffective, we are responsible for our students’ learning environment. Added to this frustration are concerns about providing a sanitized learning environment for our students and making sure that our class procedures include cleaning desks and devices and doing so within the class period. We know the importance of this however we can lose valuable class time due to technology issues we experience and the extra time it takes to complete these additional but essential tasks which promote the safety of our students.

Balancing our routines

When we made the shifts to virtual learning, I was surprised and I am sure that a lot of educators were also surprised at how much they can accomplish within each class period. When we’re together in the same physical space, there is a flow to what we do. We have our instructional strategies, the tasks, and classroom routines that we implement from the beginning of the year, that we follow to make sure everything flows as best as it can. Of course, we can’t always account for unforeseen circumstances but having a plan in place that we know and that students know definitely helps. Consistency and reliability are key. 

In virtual learning, we had new challenges. When it came to logging into class, not all students had a device that worked or reliable service. Now that we are back in our classrooms, we have to be mindful of the space where students are learning and if students are sharing devices, have an efficient plan for how we clean the devices so that we’re not taking away too much time from the learning process.

Image via Shutterstock

Adapting to the new “typical day”

In my class, on most days students use a device, whether their phone or school laptop, to check what I have posted on our Microsoft Teams page, or to access an online activity. Sometimes I create an interactive lesson or use one of the game-based learning tools to engage students with the content. While not all students may have their own devices, schools, and some classrooms have a set of devices on hand for students to use. Since we may be relying on these devices and sharing them between students and classes, it’s important that we have efficient and effective cleaning procedures in place. When we have the right tools with a consistent procedure, it will help to ease the minds of teachers and students knowing that they have clean and working devices. 

Many teachers may take a few minutes at the start of class to distribute devices and then to collect and clean them before class ends. Because of this, we end up losing potentially between 5 and 7 minutes of valuable class time. Think about how different it would be if students come into the class and pick up a clean and working device ready for use during class. As they leave the classroom, students place the device back into a cabinet where it will be sanitized for the next group of students that come in. During that 3 to 5 minutes between groups of students as classes change, the next group of students would enter and grab a device, and proceed as the prior class did. A process like this can continue throughout the day, saving valuable minutes for more important things like connecting with students and instruction. There would be less worry about the time needed to clean each individual device. And in the event that a device needs repair or further sanitation, INVZBL Protect Express powered by FedEx can make that happen and have devices back in the hands of students in very little time. It provides schools, teachers, and students with a reliable service that enables everyone to know exactly where the device is in the repair process and when it will be back for student use.

Image via Shutterstock

In many schools, devices need to be repaired on a regular basis and depending on the school, this can take a week or more. In some instances, students and teachers are left wondering when the device will be returned and students may be left without access to the right tools that will enable them to fully participate in class when technology is needed. 

It’s also important since we may or may not be required to wear masks in our schools, that we have clean air and recognize the options that exist for providing this for our students in our schools. Access to clean air and a process for disinfection will help to ease the worry that can come with what we have experienced and will enable teachers and students to focus more on the learning in the classroom, knowing that they are protected.

Being able to teach and learn in a classroom that has access to clean air, where students have access to reliable and sanitized devices will improve the education experience for all.

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Enhanced Learning with IPEVO!

Over the past two years, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of technology being used in our classrooms. Whether we were ready or not, we had to make a quick shift and perhaps embrace technology for the first time. We also had to find new ways to be able to connect with our students and create opportunities for them to connect with one another. While in our physical classrooms, we have so many possibilities for engaging students in learning, interacting with one another, and for demonstrating things. We can move around the classroom and see the work that students are doing at their desks and invite them to come to the board to solve a math problem or conjugate verbs for a few examples. Those options changed in the hybrid and virtual learning spaces, where we didn’t have those same capabilities, at least perhaps we didn’t think that we did. However, the use of document cameras offers a lot of possibilities that we may not even realize, especially if your idea of a document camera brings to mind an overhead projector.

Although they were big and bulky, they provided a way for teachers to write and project to the board without being in the way of the students. As a result, students could all see the material that was being shared. It enabled the teacher to respond in real-time, and in some cases, it was an opportunity for students to come up and use the board to share with their classmates. But overhead projectors are outdated and have been replaced by powerful technology: document cameras.

The IPEVO solution

In my classroom during hybrid learning, the camera came in handy when using my computer desktop that did not have a webcam or microphone. Being able to have the students in my classroom see and hear one another made it better for learning. With document cameras, we have so many different creative ways to engage students more in learning and amplify learning potential. For a simple definition, essentially document cameras offer a way to project the image of an object or a document, but without the bulkiness of an overhead projector. IPEVO document cameras also offer many more features which help with facilitating hybrid or virtual learning and so much more. The IPEVO VZ-X model, for example, has a microphone, a webcam, and wireless capability which means that it can move around the classroom or travel from classroom to classroom with teachers. How awesome is that!

IPEVO document cameras are a great option for teachers regardless of grade level or content area taught. I was thrilled to have one to use in my classroom and really explored different ways to use it during the past two years. As a language teacher,  for conjugating verbs or showing grammar structures, drawing a picture and asking students to write a description are a few of the possibilities. For students who may be a bit uncomfortable going to the board to write or stand in front of the classroom and present, we can place the document camera on their desk so that they feel more comfortable in their space.

Thinking about other content areas, there are many ways to leverage the power of an IPEVO camera. Science or math teachers can demonstrate how to solve a problem or to work through a lab via a document camera, especially if facilitating an online learning experience. Art teachers can use it for demonstrating a specific style of drawing, especially when it’s easier to show how to do something rather than trying to provide written instructions or explain it, using the document camera makes it easier to convey meaning through illustration.


The settings on the camera enable us to provide a clear view of all of the information we are sharing. For students who may need an enlarged size, the document camera enables teachers to zoom in or capture images to be shared later.

Build confidence

In addition to teaching Spanish, I have a ​STEAM course in which I taught students how to do sketchnotes. As someone who is not that great at drawing, I appreciated being able to sit at my desk and demonstrate the different styles of sketchnoting. For students, being able to have the document camera on their desk and share their work or teach classmates how to create a sketchnote really made a difference, especially when it came to confidence and comfort in the classroom. Students were more likely to share their drawings when they had the camera in their space. 


There are so many ways to use IPEVO! You can use it to record a lesson for students to view whether it’s a tutorial or in my classroom, for something simple like showing how to conjugate verbs or any other topic that you are covering. You can explore the free IPEVO Visualizer software to design a video that can be shared with students!

Save time! 

How much time do teachers spend waiting for the copy machine? With IPEVO, you can scan documents rather than waste time at the copier. All you need to do is slide your document below the camera lens and you’ll be easily able to share it with anyone. All IPEVO cameras are plug and play, compatible with any 3rd party conferencing software and scanning software.

Great for doing live demos! 

Simulations and demos

Sometimes we don’t have enough space. Memories of trying to see my high school chemistry teacher show us how to do a lab, but unable to see. With IPEVO, when you want to demonstrate something, no worries about crowding around each other. By placing the camera on your desk or on students’ desks, and then displaying it on the main screen, everybody can be involved and it can also help students to feel more comfortable in the classroom.

Take it anywhere

It’s awesome that you can carry around the VZ-X document camera and simply set it on a student’s desk or within a group of students who are working together. You don’t have to worry about rolling around on a cart or having a wire to plug it in since it has Wi-Fi connectivity. Once it is charged you don’t have to worry about it losing its power as it maintains it for 12 hours. For conferences, it fits nicely in my bag and I can make my sessions more interactive when I am presenting. Also, the IPEVO DO-CAM model is the smallest and lightest on the market. It is literally the size of a pencil case!



Using the document camera in your classroom, helps teachers to provide instruction, to give demonstrations, while also engaging students more because they are able to share their work with others as well. For example, ask students to draw a picture or solve a problem, and if working in a hybrid learning environment, for example, students can share their learning using the document camera and it leads to an increase in participation.

A document camera is definitely essential when it comes to learning, regardless of where it happens,  hybrid or fully virtual, and is highly beneficial in a traditional face-to-face classroom. What I love about the IPEVO document camera is that it is easy to carry around, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it’s easy to get started with​ ​in your classroom.

You can even check out the IPEVO V4K Pro camera which has artificial intelligence and voice technology, that serves to eliminate background noise. IPEVO continues to add more features so that teachers really can provide interactive and powerful learning experiences for students.  Learn more here: IPEVO

About the Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, and Speaker. Rachelle is the author of seven books about education and edtech and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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Promoting Parental Engagement Through Bloomz

In Collaboration with Bloomz, opinions expressed are my own.

Finding a reliable and secure way to facilitate communication between school and home is critical for helping our students to be successful. Even more important is providing everything through a comprehensive and unified program. The entire school community benefits by having a consistent and efficient program in place to meet the needs and preferences of each of its members.

During the past two years we have learned how essential it is to have accessible, consistent and reliable communication between home and school. While we all experienced a challenging time in the world, being able to rely on technology solutions to keep us connected makes a big difference. As educators, we must be intentional in making connections with the families of our students and not only involve them, but engage them in what is happening in our schools all year long. Promoting parental engagement is essential as it directly impacts student success and fosters a supportive home-to-school connection.

We must strive for true partnerships between school, home and the entire school community. Partnerships between each of the “stakeholders” are vital for promoting student well-being and academic success. By putting a greater emphasis on more personal connections with parents and families, we are better able to provide the support that will positively benefit student achievement for years to come.

Forming the Connections

To better engage parents in the learning experiences of their child, it is important to have a system in place that enables schools to communicate effectively and reaches all parents. We must be aware of each family’s needs and preferences when it comes to communication, and develop a clear understanding of how their prior experiences with schools and educators may impact their needs and expectations now.

At times, there may be barriers to parental engagement. Some parents may be unable to attend school meetings due to schedule conflicts or a lack of childcare. Other barriers result from uncertainty of where or how to access information that keeps them informed about the learning that is happening in our classrooms and schools. By recognizing when there may be barriers that limit parental engagement, we can proactively develop strategies and implement the right tools to better support our families.

Understanding the diverse needs of the families and students in our school system will help us to provide a strong and collaborative home-to-school partnership. Strong parental engagement has been shown to positively impact student performance, as well as empowering parents.

Connecting and Engaging with Families

While parents want to be kept informed, we need to be mindful that we do not overwhelm them with a flood of information. Over the past several years parents became more and more overwhelmed with the number of apps they needed to use. However, with Bloomz, parents are kept informed and stay connected in one unified communication platform.

In the Bloomz parent-teacher communication app, barriers to vital information and parental engagement are removed. Teachers can send instant updates, assignment reminders, share a calendar, add photos or videos to messages which will better engage parents in what is happening in their child’s classroom each day. Bloomz enables teachers and parents to communicate through messaging instantly, privately, and as often as needed. The app can be used at the classroom level, and also by administrators at the school level to facilitate communication with teachers, staff, and parents.

With Bloomz, whether for parents or teachers, getting started is easy and it offers a more secure and comprehensive platform than other communication apps that are out there. It integrates multiple functions that take up valuable teacher time that could be spent working with students and connecting with families. Teachers can keep parents informed of upcoming events, changes in schedule, class activities, and classroom needs.

Some features unique to Bloomz are behavior tracking and student-led portfolios. For elementary teachers, features like the student timeline are beneficial for tracking student progress over time. With Bloomz, the use of digital portfolios to monitor student progress enables parents to track their child’s growth and see evidence of learning as it happens.

Students can also upload pictures of their work to their timelines. For parents, being able to receive direct messages that include photos, videos, or documents, in real-time and in one unified space makes a difference. With Bloomz’s PBIS behavior management feature, teachers can communicate with parents about the student’s behavior in class, monitor their progress, and send reports right away. Teachers can reward student behaviors, select different themes, and share notes and updates with parents. The app has many options to engage parents in their children’s learning, and make sure parents are informed and involved.

Promotes accessibility through language translation.

The Partnership

The key is to move beyond the home-to-school connection and build a “family to school” partnership to engage families and continue to collaborate and grow together. When families have one centralized location to obtain class and school updates, ask questions, or read about upcoming events, it provides a more structured framework for engaging families. It fosters a greater connection between school and home and aids in resolving the barriers of time and lack of information.

At the school and district level, being able to provide everything that students and families need through a comprehensive program and in a manner that parents and families choose is important. Being able to send messages and see in real-time whether communications have been received and read is

Finding the right platform to connect and collaborate in a consistent and timely manner is vital for creating a learning community between home and schools today. Fostering parental engagement is easier with Bloomz.

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Building Coding Skills in Early Learners with Matatalab Tale-Bot Pro

In collaboration with Matatalab, opinions are my own

Image courtesy of Matatalab

There will be 3.5 million jobs available by 2025 that require STEM skills. The World Economic Forum shares key skills needed by 2025. The skills that were emphasized included collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Through STEM, we help students to develop essential skills such as social-emotional learning (SEL) that will benefit them in the future.

It is so important that we provide opportunities for all students to learn about coding, even at an early age. There are many resources available for educators or parents to choose from, but choosing the ones that promote the development of these essential skills is key. Matatalab has great solutions for getting students started with STEM at an early age! Matatalab Tale-Bot Pro, a robot designed for kids ages 3 and up, is a great choice for this. When I received it, I could not wait to get started right away and see how my students responded! Seeing the activity box, sticker booklet, interactive maps, and accessories, I knew this would be a fantastic experience!

With Tale-Bot Pro, children learn what coding is, how to create their own code, and without the need for anything other than the robot itself. Tale-Bot Pro comes with a variety of accessories for dressing up the robot, interactive maps, and more! It was fun watching my students dress it up as a rabbit, then switch it to a police car and airplane. It definitely fosters creativity in learning and through the ready-made interactive maps and blank map provided, students not only build their coding skills but can also create their own story to tell. What I love about this Tale-Bot Pro is that it can be used in schools and is a great choice for families to have at home and learn about coding together!

Screen-free and possibilities

With so much technology requiring access to specific devices or time spent staring at a screen, the fact that Tale-Bot Pro offers screen-free coding makes it a wonderful choice. We enjoyed seeing the options to learn basic coding concepts like commands, loops, and sequences. I had fun creating some quick programs to entertain the students as well. It also comes with additional accessories like building blocks, arms that you can add to the robot, and markers that make it so the robot can draw.

[options for dressing up your Tale-Bot Pro]

Getting Started

With Tale-Bot Pro, getting started is easy with its comprehensive manual available in seven languages and the Tale-Bot Pro speaks 15 languages! Great for promoting accessibility for students with the right resources. Whether you dive into the manual for ideas or explore the videos available to demonstrate what the different buttons on the robot are and how the interactive maps can be used, learning and fun will be happening right away. In my classroom, I showed a short video, did a quick demo, and then simply let my students explore on their own. They loved it and were quickly recording their voices, creating their own code, dressing up the Tale-Bot Pro, and having fun using the different materials provided.

[Students in ninth grade preparing peer learning for early learners]

Favorite features

The Tale-Bot Pro makes it so easy for kids to get started on their own because it includes a box full of activities and the materials are visually engaging. Students can dive right into coding and build their knowledge whether at home or school. The interactive maps offer instant voice feedback, which is instructive and also provides an error warning for students.

Color-coordinated: I love the intelligent coding indicators which light up in the same color as the directional buttons on the robot. This enables students to see their program carry out their steps and follow along to see if changes need to be made, which is simply done by hitting the “x” to clear a step and start over.

Command cards: It also comes with a set of command cards that students can use to visualize the code required before programming the robot. Once they program the Tale-Bot Pro, if it doesn’t do what they want to, then they can go through the process of debugging by using the cards and reprogramming it.

[Command cards are great for familiarizing students with steps in coding!]

Content-focused: It’s great that there are ten cross-curricular interactive maps focused on different areas like math, science, and music as well as topics like animals and numbers. The blank map, which works with interactive stickers is perfect for having students create a story or for teachers to design their own lesson for students to learn from.

Engaging: The robot draws students’ attention and sparks curiosity and fun for learning to code. With its six sets of preset dances, the changing eye colors, and costumes to dress up the robot, every student can have an authentic and more personalized learning experience. You can even add Lego blocks to the robot to create something different!. Bring gamification to the classroom with all of the ways students can create a game and then program the Tale-Bot Pro to complete the challenge!

[testing out the interactive maps and brainstorming ideas for younger learners]

Sounds and moves: Students are definitely engaged by the many ways to learn with Tale-Bot Pro and some of the favorite features are the sounds that it makes, the voice recording, and the mix of six random dance moves. We enjoyed recording messages as part of our program and this makes it such a meaningful learning experience! It is very easy to set up, and really does help or will help students to understand the concept of coding and to be curious about it.

Tale-Bot Pro is perfect for introducing younger students not just for building coding skills, but they will build confidence as well as SEL skills. It’s great that it can be used both at school and at home giving families an opportunity to learn with their students and providing that support at home as well. Since Tale-Bot Pro is for young students, it will help to increase interest in coding and bring us closer to meeting the demand for these skills in the future.

When it comes to having access to the right resources, using the ​Matatalab Tale-Bot Pro robot is a wonderful choice because in addition to learning to code, it helps students develop many other skills that are essential for future success. It fosters the development of social-emotional learning (SEL), building self-awareness as they learn to code, self-management as students set goals and problem solve, build relationships as they work with one another to create, while also building skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving.

[all learners will have fun collaborating and building skills together]

About the Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker and the Author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Mondays and Fridays at 6pm or 6:30 pm ET THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

4 Tips to Help Teachers Finish the School Year Strong

By Rachelle Dené Poth,

As we wind down the school year, educators may be looking for some new ideas to boost student engagement, spark some curiosity for learning, or perhaps just take some new risks with new methods and tools in their classrooms. I think this time of year presents a perfect opportunity for doing this as it gives us some fresh ideas to explore and learn with our students. It also provides us with an opportunity over the summer to reflect on how our school year went and in particular, what the impact was of any of these new methods or tools that we brought into our classrooms as the year winds down.

It’s important that we continue to push ourselves to grow personally and professionally and that we embrace risk-taking in our classrooms. Even more important is that we do this in collaboration with our students because it serves as a good model for them in preparation for the future. With so much changing in the world when it comes to the technology that we have available and the capabilities that it provides, we have to make sure that we are providing more opportunities for our students to understand how these technologies work, to be able to navigate any challenges that might arise, and how to access and process so much information.

To best prepare students for the future, we know that they need to develop skills that are transferable to any line of work. According to the World Economic Forum, a few of the top skills sought by employers are critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity. There are a variety of methods and tools available to educators that will help students develop these skills and more, that will enable them to be flexible as the world of work changes and which may also spark curiosity for and interest in STEM-related fields, which are greatly in demand. 

Especially as the year winds down, this is the time to take some risks and promote more student-driven learning which can also help to build SEL skills of self-awareness and self-management. Whether we bring methods like a genius hour or PBL into our classes and provide students with the chance to explore a topic of interest or to work with a peer and find a problem to solve, there are many benefits to providing more authentic, meaningful, real-world experiences for students. Especially as the end of the school year brings a lot of challenges with standardized testing and final exams, adding in some choices and trying a few new digital tools can help to boost engagement and finish strong.

Here are four options for the end of the year. Try one or all of them. Be sure to ask students for feedback and then use their responses to help you reflect over the summer and as you plan for the new school year.

4 Ideas to End the School Year Strong: 

  • Immerse in Augmented and Virtual Reality:   Regardless of grade level or content area, there are a lot of options and benefits for bringing in AR and VR. Three options to get started with quickly are CoSpaces, Devar and Nearpod. With CoSpaces EDU students can collaborate on the same project whether in person or virtual. It can be great for global collaboration and to build SEL and digital citizenship skills.  Create with CoSpaces to retell a story, design a VR book summary, portray a historical setting, and so much more Devar is a fun app that would be great for storytelling in AR. There are characters to choose from and then students can record a story, perfect for language classes too! Nearpod is a great option for VR since it has ready-to-run lessons available and offers an interactive multimedia learning platform with content and activities available to create a lesson quickly. 
  • Build Coding Skills: There is an increasing need for coding skills and it is important that we provide students in all grade levels with opportunities to explore coding and create. With so many choices, it is easy to find something to meet specific age groups or content areas. For example, have students use Scratch Jr. or Scratch to create a program that represents what they have learned in a class. Some examples would be writing a story, creating a review game, explain a process through a program. Another option is Blackbird Code which has levels of lessons for students to work through at their own pace and they can even design their own projects. Students can also challenge themselves by using any of the lessons as a warm-up activity to practice their skills.
  • Explore Artificial Intelligence: There is an increase in the amount of AI being used in the world every single day. Students need to develop their skills in AI and have a solid understanding of what it is, how it works, and the impact it has now and will have in the future. Teachers in all grade levels can teach about AI without having to be an expert. Providing time for students to explore Google Experiments and create their own experiments or explore the AI experiments available is a good option for any grade level or content area. Also available to educators are four curriculum guides made possible by ISTE’s AI and STEM Explorations Network. These classroom guides are available for download from ISTE and GM and have lessons for elementary, middle, and high school, electives, and computer science courses. For a variety of options for younger students, AIClub has a variety of activities for students to interact with AI and explore how AI works.  There are resources for educators and parents as well as a book to guide with teaching AI in the classroom.
  • Implement PBL and Genius Hour: If you have not implemented PBL or genius hour, these are wonderful options for not only promoting student choice and voice in learning but for building SEL skills. It is important to provide students with some options of how they will capture and share their learning. Using some of the different digital tools available where students can include audio or video, images, and text and also collaborate with a peer would be beneficial. An option like Spaces would not only help students to build the essential SEL skills as they track their progress and can reflect on their growth but also provide the benefits of a digital portfolio to curate their work over time. Providing feedback to students is essential and using Mote would be a great way to respond to student questions, provide meaningful and personalized feedback directly to students, or explain some concepts or provide support. For creating rubrics for assessments or for having students provide peer feedback, BookWidgets is a tool that I started to use recently. In addition to rubrics, it has more than 40 templates for activities, checklists, webquests, planning guides, and more.
Where to begin

A recommendation I often make for educators is to think of a specific topic you cover and the methods and tools that you have been using and instead, try to amplify it by using an innovative method or new digital tool. For many years I always felt like I had to be the expert before trying something new however, I’ve learned that it is important to embrace some risk-taking in our classrooms. Embrace new challenges and mistakes that are made and involve students because it is a good model for them and it shows that we value their input. Especially as we look to boost student engagement and keep up the momentum through the end of what has not been a typical school year, offering a variety of activities where students can explore new technologies, engage in some purposeful learning and have fun in the process as they build essential SEL skills, will be highly beneficial.


Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant and Speaker. Rachelle is the author of seven books about education and edtech and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

STEM, Robots, Codes, and Maker Spaces

STEM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces

Author: Marilynn Andrews, M.A., l Ph.D. Candidate l Educator l Twitter l LinkedIn

Marilynn is a passionate educator with a focus on improving online learning opportunities from birth until adulthood.

STEM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces

Marilynn A. Andrews, M.A.

Technology within education continues to expand as the demand and interest levels of students and prospective students steadily increase. Within various educational environments, the concepts evolving around STEAM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces are integrated into the curriculum as a means of technical exposure, proactive training, and differentiated instruction. Present day, students are at an advantage, given that these concepts are already built within the curriculum. Children as young as 3 years old are introduced to the basic concepts of technology education within preschool classrooms. Each year, the concepts grow from hands-on, device-free STEAM experiences to much more complex, technical instruction involving new and innovative technical equipment and software programs.

While students travel from grade to grade acquiring technical knowledge, there are still pitfalls present within technology education. One of the most relevant pitfalls includes teachers not receiving adequate training in order to properly facilitate the technical content to students. To further understand the implications of educational technology, this article will explore the topics of STEAM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces as a means of providing developments within the field.


The topic of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) within the field of early childhood education continues to expand as new discoveries are being made. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) seeks to provide resources for educators and parents with interests in working with children ages 0-5 with STEAM. According to NAEYC, STEAM within early childhood education is considered a part of inquiry education. “Inquiry instruction encourages active (often hands-on) experiences that support building understanding and vocabulary, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and reflection. Educators and parents can facilitate inquiry experiences by creating opportunities for children to learn about the world through STEAM lenses and by asking high-quality, open-ended questions” (Eckhoff, 2020). The processes of STEAM in early childhood education include ‘what’ to learn and ‘how’ to learn.

Why is it significant?

As mentioned, the concepts of STEAM within early childhood education teach children to ask questions at a young age. As children continue to acquire language and knowledge, the complexity of the questions should increase within context. As an example, a teacher might ask students to locate where butterflies live? With this question, children ages 2 and 3 might point outside or at a tree nearby. When asked this same question, students ages 4 and 5 might respond with a supplementary question relating to the weather and its impact on a butterfly’s home. The educator would then explain the metamorphosis process of a butterfly and the climate best suited for the insect.

The significance of STEAM is in teaching children how to ask relevant questions as a means of problem-solving. While the butterfly’s climate and habitat are a more complex problem, young children can also learn how to solve simple day-to-day problems with inquiry-based learning. As an example, a Pre-K student may be assigned to pass out paper napkins to classmates during snack time. The student will need to know how many students are at each table and how many napkins to organize to pass out to his peers. The teacher can use this as a teaching moment and inquire how many paper napkins are left on the counter or how many students are in the classroom. “This is a STEAM experience because the children use reasoning to decide on solutions and reflect on those solutions to settle on an overall strategy for passing out paper napkins during snack time” (Eckhoff, 2020).

What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

The concept of STEAM within early childhood education faces many barriers relating to developmentally practices and the appropriateness of the integrations. Teachers new to the early childhood education field benefit from learning about developmentally appropriate practices as the content and materials issued to young children may not be suitable for development. This topic has been on the forefront for many years, however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought light to this area with the increased use of remote learning with mobile devices. One of the major concerns centers around screentime with young children and the long-term health implications. Research suggests that children to which participate in too much screen time are more likely to suffer from educational problems, obesity, social anxiety, sleep issues, and violence (Korhonen, 2021).

The Academy of Pediatrics provides recommendations for screen time for children 0 through 12 years of age. It is recommended that a young child aged 0 to18 months participate for 42 minutes maximum a day while a child aged 6 to 8 years of age can participate for almost 3 hours daily (Morin, 2020). Parents and educators can monitor, and limit screen time based on the individual needs of the child.

Where is it going in the future?

According to research, STEAM within early childhood education has been historically focused on building foundation numeracy skills and on understanding natural sciences. Over the years, the concepts have expanded to integrate and promote creativity and expression through technology and science (Cohrssen and Garvis, 2020). Present day, STEAM allows for integrations into all subject areas in the form of “hands-on projects, books, discussions, experiments, art explorations, collaboration, games, and physical play” (Cohrssen and Garvis, 2020).


STEM or STEAM have been a big deal in the education field. However, according to Schrum and Sumerfield (2018), there is more focus placed on robotics and coding in education in recent years. Educational Robotics (ER) is a new learning approach that is known mainly for its effects on scientific academic subjects such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Recent studies suggest that ER can also affect cognitive development by improving critical reasoning and planning skills” (Di Lieto, Pecini, et al, 2020). Research further suggests that ER can control the executive functioning of young children and result in positive long-term benefits.

Why is it significant?

As mentioned, ER can enhance and control the executive functioning of the brain in children ages 5 and 6. This discovery is significant as this is during the foundational years of child development. Research further shows that children engaged in activities which incorporate robotics show enhanced skills in “reasoning, decision making, sequential thinking, memory functioning, problem-solving, and all of the executive functioning in the cognitive domains” (Di Lieto, Pecini, et al, 2020). Since executive functioning matures during the early teen years, it is suggested that young children engage in activities that enhance these abilities during their early stages of brain development. Robotics has been viewed as a means of teaching basic life skills to children and adults. Since robotics include many complex systems, students who are engaged in these types of assignments will learn skills relating to personal development, team working, and cognitive development (Schrum and Sumerfield, 2018). It is suggested that all students participate in robotic activities and exercises, rather than a particular group of students. Schools are seeking to integrate robotics into the curriculum, as a proactive means of training students.

Within some school districts, entire schools have shifted to a STEM-based curriculum, offering students the opportunity to learn hands-on technology lessons every day. The largest school district within Tennessee, Memphis-Shelby County School District, seeks to promote and enhance STEM education for students through varying programming. One school, East High School, operates as a STEM and magnet school and seeks to grow the economic health of the city of Memphis by providing an enhanced curriculum in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. There is a focus in students becoming college and career-ready post-graduation.

What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

There are always barriers when seeking to integrate complex topics into the curriculum. One of the primary barriers is the lack of teacher training in the area of robotics. While some schools are equipped with technology education teachers on staff, other districts may not be as fortunate. In retrospect, the research is suggesting that robotics be taught within every subject area. This poses another kind of downfall, as teachers of general education backgrounds may not be able to fully deliver the content.

Another pitfall relates to the underrepresentation of students with disabilities within robotic and coding courses. “Children with disabilities are pervasively under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education” (Kolne and Lindsay, 2019). Children with disabilities face barriers within STEM classrooms, as teachers are not comfortable with providing accommodations to meet the student’s needs. “Research shows that teacher interactions with children in a robotics course are important for supporting children in the building process, and for helping them to identify and solve problems” (Kolne and Lindsay, 2019).

Where is it going in the future?

Robotics in education will continue present-day and in the future. As mentioned, when integrated properly, the benefits of ER can have a profound effect on all students. “During the last decade, robotics has attracted the highest interests of teachers and researchers as a valuable tool to develop cognitive and social skills for students from preschool to high school and to support learning in science, mathematics, technology, informatics, and interdisciplinary learning” (Schrum and Sumerfield, 2018).

Hour of Code (Coding in Education)

Coding in education has grown to become a fundamental skill for children from kindergarten to high school. The coding industry has grown over the years and organizations have sought to provide training and supplementary support to school districts. One program, The Knowledge House, located in the Bronx New York seeks to provide high school students and beyond with the opportunity to gain technical skills relating to progressive web development, cyber security, web design, and computer programming. While this is just one program, there are numerous nonprofits and organizations to which have made it their mission to provide technical training to people within underserved communities.

Another organization that seeks to serve the community, more specifically women is Girls Who Code. The mission of this organization is to close the gender gap present within the technology sector and provide coding opportunities to women.

Why is it significant?

Integrating coding into the curriculum is significant for workforce development, starting with the youngest students. “Robotics and coding instruction has provided statistically significant contributions to preschoolers’ problem-solving skills compared to the pen and paper activities” (Cakir, Korkmaz, and Idil, 2021). Robotics and coding activities add much to problem-solving and creative thinking skills as well as digital citizenship and ICT skills included as twenty-first-century skills. These kinds of activities can contribute to preschoolers, as well. This is because coding itself is a problem-solving process” (Cakir, Korkmaz, and Idil, 2021). Preschoolers can design and build robotics using manipulatives in their classroom. When a piece does not fit into the manipulative, the preschooler will then use problem-solving skills to rearrange the design or select a new piece to fit into the puzzle.

What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

Coding is about thinking and putting those thought processes into a particular code” (Schrum and Sumerfield, 2018). However, with everything there are downsides. Research shows that students engaged in coding courses are more likely to experience disconnection in their day-to-day lives relating to in-person social interaction. While technology usage aids to the overall motivation of student learning, there needs to be a focus placed on both synchronous and asynchronous learning to further enhance the interpersonal skills of students (Tugun, Uzunboylu, & Ozdamli, 2017).

Where is it going in the future?

Coding within education will continue to evolve the way students receive content. Teachers are integrating this concept into their learning environments and creating more opportunities for students to be fully engaged in the curriculum. Teachers are resulting to flipped classrooms as a means of reaching and teaching students coding curriculum. “It has been observed that the application of the flipped classroom education method increased the motivation of students. Programmers should develop a model related to the integration of the flipped classroom education model by collaborating with the academics working in education technologies” (Tugun, Uzunboylu, & Ozdamli, 2017).

Maker’s Spaces

Many schools are resulting in maker spaces in the area of STEM. These spaces give children the opportunity to learn and grow in a ‘safe’ learning environment. As an example, students may visit their school library during lunchtime to play with Legos along with a computer-programmed tutorial (Fasso & Knight, 2020). Students within the gifted program benefit greatly from this opportunity to recharge their brains and feed their imaginations. “Makerspace’ is a term that refers to a physical space in which individuals engage for the creative purpose of making artifacts.” (Fasso & Knight, 2020). Research suggests that makerspaces enhance problem-solving skills and give way for students to engage in a meaningful project.

Why is it significant?

Maker spaces can vary based on their environment. Whether the space is in a museum, library, college, or after-school program, students have the opportunity to engage in their interests as a means of connection to self. Research shows an increase in individual identity with the presence of maker spaces. “On a common day, people operate like professionals in the field, and through this genuine enterprise, gain a personal identity situated within the domain such as a STEM identity, an engineering-identity, or a technology design-identity” (Fasso & Knight, 2020). Rather than building a ‘one-size fits all’ model of students, the presence of maker spaces allows for individuality to take place.

What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

There is controversy centering around whether maker spaces are the next fad in education. Also, there are also challenges relating to technology and teacher expertise along with how to effectively integrate maker spaces into teaching when the curriculum and daily schedule is full. “There are concerns around creating and managing the school makerspace which requires expertise that ranges from being a technical expert, a programmer, a creative problem solver, and pedagogy and STEM expert” (Fasso and Knight, 2020). Educators are also seeking ways to locate the interests of students by providing a student-centered environment rather than a teacher-centered one. Lastly, one of the primary downside’s centers around the costs of maker spaces, especially within underserved populations (Fasso and Knight, 2020).

While the potential pitfalls are not easy to solve, teachers are still urged to create simplified forms of maker spaces within their classrooms or schools. This can be done using a quiet space within the classroom or school library.

Where is it going in the future?

In previous years, maker spaces were equipped with non-technical materials such as sewing and crafting materials. However, research is showing maker spaces heading in the direction of mobile technology devices and 3D printers within local libraries (Maceli, 2019). Libraries are seeking to use this space as an innovative method to promote new technologies, enhance digital literacy skills, and provide technical access for all (Maceli, 2019).


Cakir, R., Korkmaz, O., & Ugar Erdogmus, F. (2021). The effect of robotic coding

education on preschoolers’ problem solving and creative thinking skills. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 40, 100812.

Cohrssen, C., & Garvis , S. (2021). Embedding Steam Into Early Childhood Education

and Care. Palgrave MacMillian.

Eckhoff, A. (2020, March). Breaking down steam for young children. NAEYC. Retrieved

January 29, 2022, from

Fasso, W., & Knight, B. A. (2020). Identity development in school makerspaces:

intentional design. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 30(2), 275-294.

Kolne, K., & Lindsay, S. (2019). Exploring Gender Differences in Teacher–Student

Interactions during an Adapted Robotics Program for Children with Disabilities. Social Sciences, 8(10), 285.

Korhonen, L. (2021). The good, the bad and the ugly of children´s screen time during the

COVID‐19 pandemic. Acta Paediatrica, 110(10), 2671–2672.

Maceli, M. G. (2019). Making the future makers: Makerspace curriculum in library and

information science graduate programs and continuing education. Library Hi Tech, 37(4), 781-793.

Morin, A. (2020, September 17). How too much screen time can hurt kids and their

families. Verywell Family. Retrieved January 29, 2022, from

Schrum, L., & Sumerfield, S. (2018). Learning supercharged: Digital age strategies and

insights from the edtech frontier. Ingram Publisher Services. ISBN: 9781564846860.

Singh, S., & Balhara, Y. (2021). “Screen-time” for children and adolescents in COVID-

19 times: needs to have contextually informed perspective. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(2), 198-195.

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Find Some Stillness.

Guest blog via Jennifer Haston-Maciejewski

Behavior Coach/Yoga & Mindfulness Instructor


“Maybe sometimes we should just sit, and in the sitting understand that life speaks in stillness and therefore on occasion we would be wise to join it there.”

― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Our minds want to confuse us and make everything more complicated than it really is. We constantly feel like we have to make to-do lists, and complete priorities. It’s why our brain will not easily settle down to do a simple task. The most difficult and simultaneously the simplest task we can undertake is to pay attention, to listen, and to observe. The most beneficial thing we can do for our mind is to enter into that space of stillness, that perceptual, sensing side of our brain; yet, this is what we resist more than anything! We must take time to intentionally drop out of the planning, conceptual brain, and into the present moment. We must make the conscious, on-purpose decision to practice doing this even knowing that our brain will fight us. When I say our brain will fight us, I mean that it might call forth emotions of panic, anxiety, worry, thoughts of time-wasting, to-do lists, the past, the future–anything but the right now. 

Fight back. 

Your brain is in charge of your thoughts, but you are in charge of your brain–Don’t forget that. 

Practicing mindful breathing for a few minutes every day gives you an evidence-based tool to help you eliminate stress and stay focused on tasks. The exercises we will practice can be used regularly in classrooms and personal mindful breathing practices at home! Follow these tips to help you during your mindful breathing practice: 

  1. Put everything else aside. Everything you have to do will still be there at the end of your practice. Take a break from your phone, your work, your to-do lists, and maybe even the people around you. It might help to move to a quieter place. 
  2. Get comfy. Move to the edge of your chair or sit on a cushion on the floor.  Keep your back upright, but not too stiff. Place your hands palms down on your legs or however most comfortable. Try to relax your jaw and forehead. 
  3. Set a timer. Try to do breathing exercises for 3-5 minutes as you’re first learning. If that seems too long, try 2 minutes at first.
  4. Eyes open or closed? It’s your choice. Notice which one makes it easier for you to stay focused. If you keep your eyes open, try to focus on just one object without looking around.
  5. Try to focus fully on your breathing. Starting out, just feel the flow of breath — in, out — whatever feels natural to you. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Maybe it’s in your belly, maybe in your chest or throat, or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time.
  6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things and be 17 thoughts in before you even notice. If this happens, don’t get grumpy, it’s normal. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently bring your attention back to your inhales and exhales.
  7. Close with kindness. I always like to close with a good arms overhead stretch, a soft smile, and a gentle sigh 

That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible again the next day. 

Before beginning the day, take five or ten minutes (maybe less if this seems daunting) to just sit in the quiet stillness. Don’t worry about what needs to get done. I always say if it needs to get done, it will get done. You do not need to prove to yourself that you are busy by making a list. Just be. Everything you are pushing aside to have these few minutes will be there at the end of your practice. Just for now, enjoy these moments that belong only to you.

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Promoting access and safety with Invzbl

Promoting access and safety with Invzbl

Over the past two years of shifting between virtual, hybrid and in-person instruction and even remote work for many people, greater demands have been placed on the devices that we use. Learning and working took place in new settings. In some places, a lack of devices led to the sharing of devices and so much reliance on these devices led to faster wear and tear. As a classroom teacher, having working devices for each student is essential to make sure that all students are able to participate in the learning experiences we provide. Many times I’ve had students unable to participate in an activity because the device is not working or the device is away being repaired. So how do we deal with these challenges? Invzbl has the solution.

How does it work?

Invzbl has UV-C high-capacity disinfection cabinets which enables larger quantities of devices to be cleaned in just 3 minutes. Imagine having three minutes between classes, in the current educational setting, taking the time to collect and clean each student’s device if they are using a classroom set. Instruction time is lost because of the extra time required to complete these multiple steps for all students. With Invizbl, students can place the devices into the cabinet as they leave the class. When the next class arrives, students remove the sanitized devices which are ready for immediate use without the loss of any additional time during class.

If you’re wondering what this cabinet looks like, well, it looks like an oven. It has 13 racks and can hold more than 50 iPads or tablets, 13 open computers or more than 100 phones. The cabinet cleans them all at the same time within just three minutes and has an effectiveness of 99.999 % disinfection. All of this is available for an average cost per use of roughly $0.03. It fits perfectly in my classroom and takes no time at all to set up and use. Providing students with clean, safe devices is essential.

Finally a solution: Protect Express

Even more than just having devices, we needed access to working and clean devices. Over the course of two years, educators and students experienced challenges when it came to being able to connect online. Whether due to devices breaking, waiting for repairs, wondering where the device is in the queue and when it would be returned, time was lost. Invzbl helps with this challenge through their partnership with FedEx, and their device protection as a service solution with Protect Express.

Through Protect Express, schools can rely on fast turnaround time for repairs and cleaning. Devices are picked up, repaired, cleaned and disinfected. Throughout the process, the devices are fully trackable which is a big relief when it comes to wondering when students or teachers or anyone in school might have a fully functional device returned.

There have been many times where students have been without a netbook because they were awaiting its repair and do not have access to a loaner device. The biggest question has been what happens when working from home or working in our classrooms and the device breaks? We need to be able to rely on efficient service so the learning process and instructional time is not negatively impacted.

Protect Express is great for K through 12 education. With the partnership of Invzbl and FedEx, repairing and sanitizing the devices takes far less time and with greater reliability. It is more cost-effective because it relies on FedEx which is known for its speed, making the transportation of devices between schools or home and the facility where the repairing and cleaning takes place possible within a few days. Now, students and schools are not waiting for weeks or even months to have the devices returned. With real-time tracking, you can tell exactly where the device is and when it will be back ready to use in the classroom or in the home again.

What this means for learning

Because of this partnership with Protect Express, schools can expect a reduction in device downtime. Students will be able to participate more fully than they have been in the past which resulted due to an extended amount of time required for repairs. In classrooms, students and teachers worked around the lack of working devices as best as they could while waiting for repairs or loaner devices. However, now, the time spent waiting is greatly reduced along with having the security of knowing exactly where the device is in the repair and cleaning process and when it will be available for use. Educators will benefit from being better able to provide students with access to functioning and clean devices.

Learn more here via CBS Austin interview with Invzbl CEO Chuck Morrison.

Learn more about Protect Express and all that Invzbl offers:

Access all learners with voice!


Inclusivity and accessibility are crucial to amplify student learning potential and foster the development of essential social & emotional learning skills. As teachers, our choices must enable us to provide ongoing, personalized instructional support that meets every student’s needs. Mote’s unique voice toolkit offers exactly that, and in this post, I’ll share six ways that you can use Mote to address SEL and Accessibility challenges in your school or classroom, whatever your grade or subject focus. 

What is Mote?

Mote offers a Chrome Extension and iOS app for creating and sharing voice notes, in particular through integrations with Google Workspace and other popular educational tools. Since launching in early 2020, the team at Mote has continued to develop amazing features in response to the needs of the educational community. 

Mote has something for every learner

Mote offers exactly what educators need to empower all students to access learning. We have the power of voice to provide feedback to our students, explain concepts and provide instructions, build relationships, and inform our school community about events happening in our classrooms and schools. And these are just a few of the many ways that teachers are using Mote with their learners.

With its fast voice-to-text feature, Mote lets students choose to listen to or read their ‘motes’ from teachers. They can also translate the text and select the playback speed. These capabilities offer tremendous potential for individualized instruction for students.

Learning from one another

Mote offers choices for amplifying learning and promoting accessibility and does so while also offering a supportive learning community to educators. The Mote Community is dedicated to collaborative learning and continuing to build on how Mote can be used to best meet the needs and interests of all students. As a Mote community member myself, I have experienced how it helps educators to continue to grow, share our ideas and learn new ways to bring Mote into our classrooms to amplify student learning and provide what each student needs to be successful.

Rachelle, Stacey, Alex (top), Lois and Jon (bottom row)

In the roundtable discussion that I led on May 4th, I heard an incredible number of ideas shared by Jon Neale (Mote’s VP of Education), Mote, and Mote Ambassadors Lois Alston, Alex Isaacs, and Stacey Roshan. 

The group shared how Mote promotes accessibility and much more for educators, students, and families. We explored ideas for elementary, middle, and high school and innovative ways to use Mote in our classrooms. If you are unsure where to start, I would recommend focusing first on accessibility.

Accessibility and SEL with Mote

Here are my top 6 favorite ways to use Mote to tackle accessibility and SEL:

  • Build student confidence in learning by leaving personalized messages
  • Overcome language barriers through easy translation in Real-Time: When I provide meaningful feedback to students and do check-ins with families, I can use Mote to share this as a transcribed voice note, and the student or parent can translate this into their native language.
  • Provide authentic, timely, and meaningful feedback. With Mote, I can  support and connect with all students regardless of where learning is happening
  • Foster student-agency as they can reply with a voice note, or just an emoji, to the feedback received
  • Facilitate peer collaboration through Mote to build relationships and positive classroom culture
  • Foster SEL  – Check out the SEL classroom

Making a difference with Mote

Here are just a few of the wonderful examples shared by Alex, Lois, and Stacey.

  1. Create visual art peer critiques! Check out Stacey’s awesome Art example
  1. Teach lessons with instruction provided through Mote notes. Mote notes help students to learn a new concept or practice a skill with support provided.  Check out Alex’s math lessons! Mote Audio in Google Slides
  1. Design a class or school newsletter: Sharing information with the power of voice engages the school community even more and helps to foster connections between teachers and students. Check out Lois’ The EdTech Wave

  1. Send Mote-ivational messages to families, colleagues and students. What a wonderful way to brighten someone’s day and spread positivity! Check out the Mote + Canva SEL Room!
  1. Create Personalized Certificates: Check out Alex’s 3 Stars QR Mote Messages! Receiving a certificate with a Mote message which explains the award and offers encouragement will be more meaningful and make a big difference for students!

6) Provide School-Wide Bulletin Boards: Everyone will be curious about the board and it will spark more curiosity for learning.  Look at these themed bulletin boards and positive QR Mote messages from Lois!

App Smashing with Mote!

What’s better than app smashing, especially when it involves Mote! Check out the Canva Virtual Classrooms with Mote Player Integration.

And now, learn about the latest integration with Wakelet! You can now embed Mote voice notes into Wakelet collections which will help you to save time, boost engagement, and connect with your community!

Some final tips from our amazing panelists Alex, Lois, and Stacey.

Is there a learning curve when getting started with Mote?

Stacey says: You can get up & running as soon as you add the Chrome extension! One truly beautiful thing about Mote is how easy it is to get going & how intuitive it is. Though it’s not required for students to install the Chrome extension to listen to your voice notes, it’s optimized when everyone has Mote installed.

The #moteminutes playlist on YouTube is a wonderful place to learn how to get going: Check out Stacey’s Walkthrough to get started! Leaving Voice Feedback (with Automatic Transcription!) in Google Docs using Mote

According to Alex,” I was quickly able to hit the ground running after installing the Mote Chrome extension last spring. I had no issues inserting audio motes into my Google Slides to add detailed explanations and warm greetings for my diverse learners. Since then, Mote has become even easier to use, and new integrations with platforms like Wakelet and Twitter have offered my students more variety and accessibility options.”

How does Mote enhance accessibility when facilitating learning in hybrid or fully virtual environments?

Alex says that Mote enhances accessibility in these virtual environments by offering translated audio messages to be sent with little effort. Students can then use these motes to help them approach math problems, understand multi-step directions, and receive updates about class news.

What are your ideas for an educator just getting started?

Stacey: Install Mote and use it to create a voice comment on your next Google Doc or Google Slides

Lois: Start implementing voice Motes in the platforms that you are currently using like Google Workspace for Education. For example, leaving a voice Mote in Google Classroom to welcome students each day would be an easy way to start and a great way to connect with students.

Alex: My best advice for someone starting with Mote would be to send a positive Mote message to a star student and their parent/guardian. The personal touch of a voice message compared to a simple email has made a big difference in my ability to form a stronger bond with my students and their families.

Boosting student engagement and SEL at the end of the year. What ideas can you share?

Lois: SEL + Mote classroom: This room is fully integrated with the Mote player in Canva. Alex and I hope that other educators will use this template to create their own digital SEL space in their classes. We also hope that personalized Mote messages will better assist students in emotional times of need.

What is your favorite way to use Mote?

Alex: My favorite way to use Mote is implementing QR audio motes. Not only have I used this function to create welcome messages outside of my classroom, but it has also allowed me to create more personalized certificates to celebrate student achievement.

Lois: My favorite way to use Mote is to enhance school-wide bulletin boards. Helping teachers create QR Motes has allowed for a more interactive experience for teachers and students when they scan them.

Why Mote makes a difference

Mote helps students to build essential SEL skills, while more meaningfully engaging in the lesson which leads to better content retention. Alex says “Mote has made a difference in my practice by enhancing my feedback and making it more authentic, meaningful, and personal. I am very thankful for how Mote has allowed me to make stronger connections with my students while providing them with memorable moments in my math class. The platform has also saved me time and helped me offer easy-to-understand messages to my diverse groups.”

For Lois, Mote has made a big difference in her practice as a Tech Coach. Using Mote audio messages for monthly EdTech Wave newsletters has allowed her to further explain what is shared on each slide. In addition, using Mote in Wakelet has allowed me to use my voice to leave a message in my collections. I love how Mote is now integrated in Wakelet where voice transcripts allow for more accessibility.

Designing a lesson and creating resources that support students whenever they need it is critical. Mote enables us to do just that.

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Consistency and Reliability are Essential

In collaboration with @Pikmykid

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when there is a heightened focus on the importance of mental health and wellness and on finding methods or resources to help those who need them. As educators, our mental health and wellness are essential because of their impact on the work we do as educators. We interact with our students, our colleagues, students’ families, and other members of our school community. We take on a lot and it can become overwhelming at times. We’ve all experienced a lot over the past two years as we’ve dealt with COVID and new challenges in our daily work, which can and has led to teacher burnout and frustration. To provide the best for our students, we need to focus on our own well-being and be a source of support for others because of a great deal of responsibility we bear as educators. Our well-being impacts the students in our classrooms and in our schools, our colleagues, and those that we lead and learn with. Dealing with challenges can weigh heavy on us emotionally, mentally, and physically. As this school year winds down, it is important that we all take time to rest and to reflect on what we have been through not just this year but in the past two years since the school closures in March of 2020.

Now is the time to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the ways that we innovated and embraced new ideas that led to improvements in the way we provide for our students and their families. Changes we implemented and risks we took led to benefits that we may not have foreseen. Feeling overwhelmed with so much to balance weighs heavily on us all and when we take a risk with a new idea or make a slight change, it can have a powerful impact on teachers and members of the school community. With teacher burnout and families feeling overwhelmed due to worrying about student safety and changes in school schedules, planning for events happening in our schools, a focus on mental health and wellness especially as we wind down the school year is important.

Finding consistency and reliability

It’s no surprise that teachers have a lot of tasks that they must do each day in addition to teaching the content. The clerical tasks that go along with teaching such as school dismissals, announcements, and keeping parents informed of changes in schedules are just a few of the many tasks taken on by teachers each day. There is stress involved in these tasks that impact teacher and parent wellbeing. For teachers, trying to manage a teaching schedule while worrying about student safety when it comes to dismissal, communicating with and reassuring parents when picking up their child from school, keeping them informed of any changes, and providing that information in real-time is a lot. For teachers, being able to save valuable time by having a solution that enables them to spend more time with students learning, and building relationships, while also having the comfort in knowing when a parent is arriving to pick up their child, makes a big difference and helps to relieve any stress and frustration that can come with what may seem to be a simple activity or school routine. But in reality, it can become a time-consuming and stressful process.

What can we do?

There are solutions available and sometimes it comes down to one simple method or tool that facilitates many tasks and helps to alleviate the stress that can result from the time-consuming or challenging tasks faced in schools today. Innovation enables us to bring about impactful changes to the work we do, not just in our schools and for our students, but for the families and the school community too. With a school safety and dismissal platform like Pikmykid, schools get to not only eliminate the stress everyone normally feels, but they get to focus on what really matters, learning in a safe environment. Since Pikmykid helps to speed up the car line and gets rid of unnecessary steps in the process, teachers and office staff gain more time in their day. Without frustrating miscommunications from dismissal changes, having to run back and forth between classrooms, and experiencing loud megaphones or walkie-talkies, the everyday occurrence of dismissal can become a completely different experience for them. They get to spend less time using outdated processes and more time doing what they love, helping students succeed. And since Pikmykid is all about involving the whole community to make school safer, the built-in safety protocols help schools make that happen seamlessly.

With the safety and emergency tools in their back pocket (aka their phone), parents and staff can gain peace of mind with better communication when incidents do happen. With less traffic overall in front of the school, the whole community benefits from the prevention of car accidents and frustrated drivers. Implementing this kind of technology can make a significant impact leading to safer schools and a more positive learning process.

Mental health can impact our lives in many different ways. It can result in emotional, mental, and physical effects which is why it’s essential to find solutions that take little time but that lead to many benefits. When it comes to school, there are a lot of concerns that we need to consider, and having a way to provide reassurance and focus on safety, will help to alleviate those concerns for parents, teachers, and schools.

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Emerging Technology Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker and the Author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @rdene915

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