NYCDOE Tech Summit–A Review

tech summit

I recently attended the New York City Dept. of Education Technology Summit at LaGuardia High School.  I went to the summit to learn about the material that was out there for me to use with my students in the technology lab.  Having never been to a Tech Summit before I had no clue what to expect, what I was going to see, or how many other people were going to be there.  What I got was a very well-organized and a little too crowded for my taste day filled with networking, learning, and almost 10,000 steps on my pedometer.

As I walked into the summit I slowly began to adjust to the noise, tables and mass amounts of pens and candy.  Yes candy, every table had candy as the prize for stopping and talking with the sales people and listening to their sales pitch for a few minutes.  Some of the vendors were very knowledgeable and could answer any question I threw at them.  The question I asked the most was “Is there a free trial?” and that was after they had all tried to convince me that spending anywhere between $1000 and $4000 for the school year was worth it.  There were several wonderful tables with useful material, colorful flyers and animated sales representatives, and then there were the tables that I purposely went to see because I was thinking about the needs of my students, and my school community.

Google Apps for Education


The Google Apps for Education table was one of the last tables that I visited, but helped me the most with the questions that I had.  My school is switching over to Google Classroom this year, and I am in charge of setting it up.  The representative that I spoke with was knowledgeable and friendly.  He was able to show me how to add teachers to the website, explain why the set-up process was so tedious and give me the clearest directions for setting up my school.  For those of you who do not know, Google Apps For Education is a FREE program available to schools around the world. It has “all the tools that schools need to be productive and work together.”

Check out this YouTube Video Google For Education 101 (in 101 seconds)


news o matic

News-O-Matic was one of the first tables that I did not set out to visit that caught my eye.  This website is a daily news publication on a variety of grade levels. They publish several articles across the grade levels Monday-Friday all year-long.  Yes, all year-long!!!  I had the pleasure of meeting Russell Kahn, the Editor-in-Chief of News-O-Matic.  He gave me a wonderful demonstration of how the website works and made sure that I knew without asking that they were willing to work with schools and offered free trials.  I was so excited after leaving the table I made sure to put his business card in my wallet so that I could hand it off to my Principal in a few weeks.  In addition to the daily publications on the website they are available in the App stores.  I downloaded the FREE trial app that gave me access to publications for grades 3 and 4 dating back to July 11.  Again this is the #EdTech that I am taking back to my principal.

Check out this YouTube video All About News-O-Matic


I have been a huge fan of for several years now.  I first came across the site through my best friend.  He introduced me to the website by telling me “They have the best training videos on everything you could ever want to learn.”   I checked it out with their FREE 10-day trial and was instantly hooked on the website.  They really do have videos on everything you could ever want to learn about that involves technology. What I didn’t know was that they have an education package.  It’s a group rate for educators and schools so that they can use the videos in their classrooms. is great even if you are super busy and only have 20 minutes to watch an educational video.  You can watch as little or as long as you want and come back to it at another time.  Self-help at its finest!

Some of their excellent videos to use in Education are…

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Educational Technologies
  • Google Apps For Education
  • Getting Started with Schoology

Check out these YouTube Videos from Anyone Can Learn It and The Story

learning az


As an educator I am always looking for new sources of online reading material.  My school has been using Reading A-Z and Raz Kids, which is are subdivisions of for many years but it’s not a resource that all of the teachers in my school use. So I wanted to see what they were offering that was new and inviting.  From the speech that the sales rep gave me, it doesn’t seem like anything too new but they really don’t need to be new.  They have just about every genre of reading that an elementary school teacher could ask for, because “they are the ‘just-right reading’ source”  For those of you who have never heard of them here are some of the fabulous features they do offer that you can find during their 14-day FREE trial.

  •      Reading levels for PreK-6th Grade
  •      Read aloud features
  •      Downloadable and printable books
  •      Color copies and black and white copies—great for coloring pages
  •      Projection view–yes you can project the books onto your Smart Board

Check out this YouTube Video Learning A-Z Intro


There were many other tables, booths and workshops available to me throughout the day.  If you have never heard of any or all of these #EdTechs I hope that you check them out.  Don’t forget to let me know what you think.



One App to Explain Everything



It is time to rethink your classroom presentations… think Explain Everything. This app allows teachers to create by providing an interactive whiteboard and a screencast tool in one place. Using this app, presentation slides can include a variety of media- from websites and drawings to pictures and videos- Explain Everything has it all. Sharing your creations is simple, and presentations can be shared and exported in programs like Dropbox, Google Drive, and YouTube for viewing on and off of the Internet. Explain Everything offers different presentation formats to meet the needs of all learners. Flexible viewing options also allow the teacher to control how presentations are viewed. Teachers can provide students with the option to control the pace at which a Presentation is viewed, or it can be viewed and paced at the teacher’s timing.


Explain Everything is used by over 2 million people, and is growing daily. In fact it is not only used in classrooms, but by leaders and learners worldwide. The Hytech Lawyer, which is devoted to technology solutions for lawyers writes, “The potential uses for this app are only limited by your imagination.” Similarly, a website devoted to Apple technology in the classroom writes, “Some apps are like swiss army knives. Some can do more than you think. Some can be used in thousands of ways in the classroom. Explain Everything is one such app.”


The uses for Explain Everything is the classroom are plentiful. Teachers can use the app as a learning medium that includes a variety of rich media, and videos and images created on other apps are easily imported. Students can also assume the creator role using this app by constructing and sharing their knowledge while creating Explain Everything presentations of their own.
In what ways do you see yourself using Explain Everything in the classroom?

Instagram in the Classroom


Instagram has become the social platform for teenagers today.  It has replaced Facebook which has transformed into the social media of adults and grandparents.  Instagram is the “cool” current tool that it seems is necessary to navigate life as a teenager in 2015.  Teachers around the country are always look for ways to tap into what students are interested in for the particular time they are in their classrooms.  Instagram is a tool that fills that criteria.  With very little need for explanation and and instructions Instagram can become a powerful tool in the hands of a creative teacher.

Of course with any online tool that it used in the classroom it comes with a few disclaimers.  Students must be well versed in digital citizenship and responsibility.  It is probably best for the sake of protecting privacy that any classroom account is kept private and you carefully vet anyone looking to follow the account.

Below are some examples and ideas for using Instagram in various classrooms.

Here is a first person account from Dallas, a fellow teacher who describes her “ah ha” moment that led to the utilization of Instagram and other forms of social media in her classroom.

“Hey, I’m gonna create a class Instagram account. Yeah. Hang on…” [creating account while they are sitting there] “Okay, here’s what it is…” [pause to write it on the board] “If you’re on Instagram, log on when you get home. I’m going to post some review questions there. Go through and see which questions you can answer.”

Student: “What if I don’t have Instagram?”

Me: “That’s okay. I’ll post it on my blog, and you can come in and look at it first thing in the morning.” (This also applies to anyone who doesn’t have Internet at home. The kids know that all online opportunities can also be done in class. That’s only fair.)

Another student: “But what if I go on and answer, but my answer is wrong?”

Me: “Who cares! You are actively trying and working on your learning outside of class! Give it your best shot! I will be proud of you for trying!”

Another student: “Could I use my notes to answer your questions?”

Me: “Absolutely! That’s why you take these notes every day – so you can use them! Go for it!” (I use a lot of exclamation marks when I write because I use them when I speak – ha!)

Another student: “Could I look up the answer on my computer?”

Me: “You mean research? At home? About a school topic? Absolutely! I love that!”

Another student, hesitantly: “What if… I post the answer… and then someone, you know… copies off of me?”

Me: “Great question. So if you know the answer, and you post it, you are sharing your knowledge with someone else, right? I kind of see that as helping someone learn. Do you? I mean, it’s not on the actual test. It’s like you’re helping them study, but you’re at home on your phone, and they’re at home on theirs.”

Another student: “So… it’s like we’re having a study group, but we’re not together, and it’s more fun, because we’re on Instagram?”


Instagram and social media can be a powerful tool for connecting kids and connecting their learning to something that is fun and engaging. Listed below are other means and strategies for incorporating Instagram in your classroom.

  • Showcase students’ work. Snap pictures of students’ artwork and other special projects to share on a private Instagram account only accessible to families and others in your school community.
  • Feature a student of the week. Invite students to alternate “taking over” your classroom Instagram account and sharing photos from their daily lives. Then have the featured student share his or her photos with the class.
  • Capture field trip memories. Invite a student volunteer “archivist” to take photos on your field trips or during class parties and share them on your Instagram account.
  • Imagine how a famous person in history would use Instagram. Have students browse historical photos and create a bulletin board or poster display showing Abraham Lincoln’s or Buzz Aldrin’s Instagram feed.
  • Imagine what a favorite character would post. Challenge students to find photos that would appear in Harry Potter’s or Katniss Everdeen’s Instagram.
  • Share reading recommendations. Invite students to snap photos of their favorite books and then browse the photos in your feed for more ideas on what to read.
  • Record steps in a science experiment. Watch as a plant unfurls or a chemical compound slowly changes colors—and keep the changes preserved on Instagram.
  • Go on an ABC scavenger hunt. Challenge kids to find print in the world around them—on signs, packaging and in the mail.
  • Discover ideas for writing. Tap an “inspiration fairy” to take 10 photos that could serve as a prompt for writing—an empty bird’s nest, a For Sale sign and a broken doll, for instance.
  • Document student progress. Snap photos of student’s writing at the beginning and end of the year. Order inexpensive prints from sites such as to show students how far they have come!

Frictionless Formative Assessment with Social Media


Formative assessment is something teachers regularly use to direct their instruction. This process relies on feedback. Paige Alfonzo wrote an article on Edutopia, entitled “Frictionless Formative Assessment with Social Media.” In her article, Alfonzo outlines the possibilities of using social media as grounds for assessments.

Common Core State Standards make is necessary for all teachers to use formative assessments. If teachers use social media as a form of formative assessment, they are ‘able to assess students performance in real time and make quick modifications.’

Alfonzo suggests using Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Edmodo. She points out three particular features of Twitter that enable formative assessment. They include; class hashtags, chats, and tweet chats. All provide different, and effective uses to assess students’ understandings. Facebook and Google plus have the option to create private groups for your classes. A benefit to these over Twitter, is that these allow students to write longer posts.

Edmodo is something that a teacher friend of mine introduced me to this year. It is basically a Facebook for educational purposes. She gave me a brief overview of the site, and enlightened me on how she uses it in her third grade classroom. She had some great ideas, and great results! It is a tool that I have signed up for, and have been experimenting with all summer. I can’t wait to implement it in my own third grade classroom this fall. After reading this article, I have found endless opportunities that this site can bring for my students and me.

Read her article in entirity here:

This video I found shows how and why students relate to social media so well, and reinforces why assessing them using social media and technology is so beneficial!

How can you see yourself using social media as a formative assessment? Any new ideas!? Please share!

Kasi Pilny

Interactive Presentations Designed to Engage and Motivate

It is a very exciting time in education. New technology is allowing us to create blended learning experiences that enhance student learning. Best of all, students are motivated and become more involved in their own learning process as they synthesize information to construct knowledge. is a website and app that allows teachers and students to create interactive presentations using a variety of media and assessment tools.

Using nearpod in the classroom provides information to both students and teachers. Students are viewing interactive presentations that  include videos, images, text, websites, pdf files, and audio. Additionally, features like open ended questions, fill in the blank, multiple choice, and drawing can be added in. Nearpod presentations allow students to engage in learning while providing valuable feedback to teachers via a visual report that displays student participation, answers, and reflections. This data helps drive instruction and expose student understanding.


Nearpod is easily used among different content areas, and allows teachers to fully customize their presentations. Students can even get in on the action by accessing their content knowledge to create a presentation of their own. Nearpod presents a collaborative environment as students and teachers are all able to access the same presentation simultaneously, sharing and reflecting upon the learning experiences they are having. The websites presentation library allows allows users to explore lessons created by others. Eve Orf, a K-5 teacher librarian shares, “Nearpod is an engaging tool with many free presentations ready to use. Just added 5 to my library!”

Classroom Applications

There are many great ways to meet state, national, and CCLS by using Nearpod and other instructional methods. The following are a few examples of how teachers are using Nearpod in their classrooms.


Teachers and students can use Nearpod to pose questions and prompts for reflection. Students can individually or in groups evaluate the prompt and develop supporting claims before sharing their answers using Nearpod. The report could be brought up on the Smartboard for the class to examine and discuss.

Knowledge Construction:

Students can use Nearpod as a resource in learning. Students can explore presentations on topic in order to build their knowledge through research, analysis, and making meaning of the information.

Representing Knowledge:

Students can apply their knowledge on a specific topic to solve a real-word problem posed to them. Through a Nearpod presentation students can expose the problem to viewers and offer supporting evidence to the solution.


Nearpod is a great way to teach lesson content and formatively check for understanding using the interactive options. Nearpod can also be used solely for assessment, utilizing different questions formats. For example, an access code can be presented on the board as students walk in, acting as a “Do Now” or even an entrance task.


A question could be asked of the class or group. Students submit answers and the report shows student answers numerically and in pie chart form. Students completing research projects can survey family, friends, and other students by sharing the access code and reach out to many different groups at once.

Flipped Classroom Model:

Students can enter the classroom and access a Nearpod presentation that provides students with prompts and resources to explore in the process of knowledge construction. Websites can be built right into the presentation, as well as videos, and audio. Students can also use the interactive features to share a reflection of what they learned and how it is meaningful to them.

What creative educational uses you can see yourself implementing using Nearpod in your classroom? Share your ideas!

A Student Perspective on Teachers Using Social Media

High school freshman, Katie Benmar, recently wrote an article for Education Week entitled “My Favorite Teachers Use Social Media: A Student Perspective.”

The article in entirety can be found here:

Ms. Benmar discusses how teachers can better understand how to engage students in their teaching. She says that first, a teacher must think like a student. Kids need to feel connected to their peers and be up to date on their lives. They do this through social media. “But social-media platforms have gotten so addictive that they slowly direct students’ attention away from schoolwork and toward the screen.” Benmar says that high school students are so consumed in their social media pages, wanting more likes on their pictures or more followers on their page so they can feel popular or important to their peers. I have to admit- I am 24 and get very easily distracted with my own social media pages!

High school students are practically on their phones using social media 24/7 so why wouldn’t teachers use that to their advantage? Rather than students being distracted from learning on their cell phones, put your teachings right in the palm of their hands! “Learning how to use social media and technology to engage students is potentially very beneficial for our learning, and some teachers have taken the first step.” Benmar states that a former teacher created an Instagram page to post homework assignments, or new concepts taught in class that day. Because of the fact that the students will constantly be checking their Instagram feeds they will be bound to see what the teacher posts. I couldn’t agree with that teacher more on the idea here- brilliant!

“The best teachers I’ve ever had have used technology to enhance learning, including using Facebook pages for upcoming projects or planned online chats about books we read in class.” The fact that Bemar says that these types of teachers were the best she had really reinforces the idea that social media is very powerful in this generation. It is really a means to grasp the attention of your learners and keep them there! They are hooked on social media, so why not use that to your full advantadge?!

Lastly, Benmar closes with this powerful call to teachers. “I hope that educators will consider experimenting more with technology and social media in their classrooms in a way that will be intellectually challenging to students. Believe me, your students will appreciate it, even if not every attempt is successful.”

As a teacher it interesting to hears students perspectives on social media. We may think they may be all pro social media, but it is interesting to hear how they identify with the cons.

What is your stance on social media in schools?

Kasi Pilny

An App for Education! Junganew-A Herd of Sounds (for “s”)

Recently I was introduced to a Speech and Language Pathologist by the name of Esther Giordano. One of my best friends from college introduced us at her birthday party. Esther has over 20 years of experience working with children who have speech delays.

Esther is the creator of an educational application or app for the i-Pad called Junganew-A Herd of Sounds. This is the first story based app where teaching children sounds is the main focus.  The app teaches the sounds of the letters, S, through an interactive story line.  A cute little tree frog named Theo struggles with the initial, medial and final sounds of the letter S.  Throughout the story Theo learns how to say the sounds for S.  As your child goes though the story, the app asks for access to the camera and the microphone so that it can take pictures and record your child practicing the sound. The app is delightfully entertaining for children, and the best thing is that it’s not just for children with speech delays.  This app can be used for differentiation in any k-2 classroom in small groups or in a one to one setting.

  • Interactive– The characters ask your child to complete tasks that help them identify the proper way to say the sounds of “S”.
  • Engaging I tested it out on my 5-year-old nephew who has speech delays and is missing all his front teeth.  Because of the story element, he was eager to push forward, and subsequently he was learning. There was progress right after the first use.
  • Visual– The hand painted background in the app is eye appealing to adults and children.  The app uses your camera and microphone to help your child learn the proper placement of their tongue, teeth and lips. It’s more than just the characters telling your child how to make the sound…children will actually get to see themselves make the sounds with the video and images from the app.
  • Auditory–  My nephew loved playing the different games with Theo to help him get better at the sound for S. Through the story, he was able to listen to Theo. He even said, “Auntie Shay, listen Theo is getting better at saying S.”  The app increases your child’s auditory skills.

Based on my nephews reactions and interactions, the $4.99 I spent on the app was certainly worth the money.

Check out the video on for Junganew A Herd of Sounds

ShayLyn Ostrow

Technology and Special Education Teacher since 1999

Technology in Education

Technology is going to change the very foundations of the way we educate our future.

As a veteran teacher, I can say that I have been reluctant to change the way I am teaching. Each year, we are given something new to learn, and each year I would find the flaws.  Most of the time, they were small and insignificant.

With each new change of the curriculum, I found myself saying…

“Oh, this program isn’t going to meet the needs of my special education students.”

“These books are never going to engage my students.”

“This math curriculum is ridiculous, how am I supposed to teach ALL of this.”

“This lesson is going to be boring.”

“What is wrong with the way I learned…I learned how to add, subtract, spell and write just fine without all these NEW crazy ideas.”

The truth in the matter is that times are changing and as an educator I need to change.  I need to change so that my students are learning for tomorrow not yesterday.  All of those excuses were my way of fighting the system and refusing to make the changes that were needed.

This year, I was offered the best chance to make the changes I needed to make me a more effective educator and the changes to make my students educated for tomorrow not yesterday. I was given the opportunity to be the technology teacher in my K-5 school.  I was very nervous about making this HUGE change in my career. I had been a special education teacher for the past 15 years, and well change is not the first thing on my long list of things to do in my life.  Change is scary. Change is hard. Change is just not fun.  BUT I love technology.  I loved using it with my special education teachers.  I used it at home for everything.  So this change…well I was excited and nervous all at the same time.  How hard could it be, the student already knew all about technology.

Don’t they all have cell phone by the time they get to 3rd grade anyway?

I couldn’t have been more wrong in my thoughts.  Yes the students did know about technology, but most of them had never used a computer to write a story.  They didn’t even know some of the basic terms for computer parts in September.  The students knew all about games like Subway Surfer, they knew all about YouTube.  They even knew about searching on Google. But I wasn’t asked to teach them how to play games. I was asked to teach them how to take their writing in class and publish it on the computer using Word and PowerPoint.  I was asked to teach them how to create a graph and to make calculations to solve word problems using Excel.  So I started a year of learning on my own and making the changes that I needed to make.  Now I truly believe that technology is going to change the way we educate our future.  Technology is the future.