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As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, the work of today’s Ignatian Educator at Prep is both challenged by and energized by our response to the exponentially changing digital landscape.  Like the early Jesuits, missioned to all frontiers of the globe, our work ventures into new digital spaces and new worlds of information, through new means of connectivity.  These correspondences are our “letters home.” They are reflective of our commitment to the Mission, Core Purposes, and Core Values of Creighton Preparatory School.


Using Jing to Plan for Substitutes

By Meghan Townley, English Department

Jing is a free program that can used for flipping your classroom, getting notes to absent students or  moving along your lesson plans when you have a substitute.  I had originally planned to use Jing to flip my classroom, but ended up using it to assist my class in starting a project while I was out of the classroom. When I came back, there were minimal questions and the podcast projects were in the initial stages. I really enjoyed not “losing” a day while I had to be out of the classroom; the students accomplished what we would have done on our first day and I provided more one-on-one help with those who needed it when I returned.

Jing is a free communication devise that allows you to record up to five minutes of onscreen video and take screenshots. I created a screenshot (below) instructing students how to begin their podcast project.

Jing allows you to write/draw on the screenshot so I drew arrows and outlined key tools in the box. Next, I clicked through the motions of starting an Audacity project and recorded my onscreen video (below). I posted these items to the portal and students reviewed the screenshot instructions and watched the video before starting their project.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

This is just one example of how I used Jing, but it can be helpful even if you are not introducing a technology program. You could record yourself clicking through a Power Point (with audio of your lecture) and give to absent students or those who may need extra help. You could also record feedback on a group project or paper and email your video to students.  These are just some ideas; there are many ways that you can use Jing in the classroom. 


Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes on Wednesday December 5, 2012 at 02:12PM
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Confessions of a Technology Bumbler

By Kathy O'Keefe, Theology Department

Some people are early adopters of technology.  They comb user blogs and are known by name by the helpful folks at the Apple store.  They tweet about acquiring the newest devices and have heard about upcoming versions of operating systems and apps for scanning barcodes and checking in on airplanes before anyone else.  I am married to such a person.  My husband, a professor at Creighton University, was among the first persons to teach an online class there.  He operates his computers remotely.  He uses sophisticated software to edit podcasts from a dedicated studio and he has executive produced several documentaries using advanced editing software and hand-held video cameras in remote locations. 

I however do not seem to have the natural inclination towards technology that he does.  He is incredibly intuitive with desktops, laptops and hand-held devices of all kinds. I get confused by remote controls for televisions that have more than ten buttons….  Its not that I am afraid of or reject technology.  I was actually raised around it.  My father was a computer programmer back when mainframe computers filled entire rooms. I even remember him bringing punch cards home which we would turn into decorative wreaths!  (simply staple the ends and spray paint gold– voila!)  Dad got involved in computers back in the early 1960’s – so I was literally raised around them from early on. 

The proximity of technology via the two most important men in my life has served me well – I am totally convinced of its importance and the marvels it can do.  I live in a home where the devices are numerous and omnipresent.  However, sadly, that fact has not translated into any particular aptitude for the devices in my life. 

When I don’t use a function on my computer or PowerSchool for awhile, I forget how to do it.  When the red light goes on my SmartBoard, I don’t remember how to reset it.  When I go onto the App Store, I easily get overwhelmed by the volume of choices.  I bring in the iPad cart but when students have difficulty with a Prezi or uploading a project to YouTube, I am not much help….

I confess these truths about myself because I have come to realize that I am not that unusual.  There are many interested but not always adept users of technology out there (and even here at Creighton Prep!). We want to use these amazing features but are not always sure how to or remember the instructions that one of our more adept colleagues once showed us.  We are bumblers.  Eventually we master certain machines and programs but we never feel all that comfortable when new things are introduced to us. 

That said, I have found myself – bizarrely – to be fairly good at explaining uses of Twitter or camera phones or drop boxes to others.  I have been surprised when getting together with many family and friends at holidays, how many of them do not use the devices, apps and websites that I maneuver through all the time without thinking about it.  I realize I really do like, enjoy and have a certain level of proficiency with technology that has become second- nature to me. 

On behalf of all other interested, but not always technologically-intuitive teachers, be patient with us.  We’ll get there! We are gifted in many ways but being intuitive about technology is not necessarily our first and best talent!   

Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes, The Reflective Practioner on Wednesday December 5, 2012 at 02:04PM
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Spanish department adopts Descubre textbook series

Tami Soffran - World Languages Department

The Spanish department adopted a new textbook series, Descubre, for the 2012-2013 school year.  The new textbook features enhanced learning opportunities through additional technology access.  The Descubre text offers students: online homework with multiple attempts and immediate feedback, an online textbook in addition to a paper copy, listening activities read by native speakers that allow students to rewind and listen to recordings multiple times, grammar tutorials, review activities over previous lessons, flashcards already created for each chapter, voice recording ability, telenovelas for each chapter that students can read in the book as well as watch on their computer while utilizing subtitles in both Spanish and English, cultural readings with audio, authentic music and art mini-lessons. 

This textbook has allowed me to “flip my classroom” regarding grammar and vocabulary introduction.  Students watch grammar tutorials at their own pace, take notes and then come to class with questions.  When I teach grammar in the classroom, it is now the second time a student receives the information and I can cover what is needed.  With vocabulary students come to class having already heard audio clips by native speakers.  Vocabulary pronunciation in class has improved.  With listening activities now online, students spend more time exposed to native speakers, improving aural comprehension.


Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes on Friday November 16, 2012 at 02:49PM
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In Defense of the Traditional Paper

By Elaine Ayers, English Department

A picture is worth a thousand words.

That's the conventional wisdom, but with the impact of technology in education, I'm no longer sure of the current picture-to-word exchange rate. Technology is transforming education, and its influence is largely visual. Students can now create dynamic presentations that would have required a production crew when I was their age. They can produce graphics and videos to demonstrate their learning. I can "flip my classroom" and deliver lectures on YouTube, where my students can access information on demand and reserve our precious class time to troubleshoot the particulars of their assignments. 

So much can be accomplished with technology. In fact, a colleague I know to be a dynamite teacher in the humanities told me she rarely assigns a paper anymore because she can validly assess her students' mastery of concepts through so many electronic resources.

 All this is very good:  Technological innovation allows us Jesuit educators to strive for the magis--the more--in new ways:  more opportunities to access information throughout the day (and night), greater modalities in which to deliver instruction and demonstrate learning, etc.


I want to make a case for the traditional paper. No graphics, no links, just the regular old paper-paper. Nothing but you and your words. And grammar and spelling count.

With the transformational nature of education, I see the role of the language teacher to be at once more peripheral and more vital than ever before. While images, presentations, and video have compelling strengths, there is no escaping the power of writing, or the ways we imperil ourselves when we don't understand it. Language has a unique capacity to trigger and sustain critical thought, whether it's to compose a research paper or to decipher one's insurance policy. Language particularly empowers us to articulate our perspectives, pursue new ideas in depth, and recognize when we might be misled. It demands heavy intellectual lifting in a very special way.

When we are proficient in language, we have tremendous power to understand and influence. When we form this capacity in the Ignatian tradition, we are compelled to use our talents to make a difference.

I understand the educational sands are shifting and the traditional paper is now only one among ever-multiplying methods that demonstrate and evaluate learning. However, writing provides a way of knowing and growing that we cannot neglect. If we aspire to be committed to doing justice, this aspect of intellectual competence is essential.

So the picture is important, but don't discount the words.

Posted by Blog in Time Honored Teaching on Thursday November 8, 2012 at 12:24PM
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Using Google Voice to Improve Student Presentations

From Jerry Kinney, World Languages Department

Formally assessing a student’s in-class presentation takes a lot of class time and requires that an instructor judge a students' speaking after hearing it only once.  Google Voice allows students to record a voicemail of their presentation and send it to their instructor for assessment.

At the start of the project, the teacher tells students that they will be required to record a voicemail during a future class meeting using target tenses/vocabulary using a brief outline as a guide.  The teacher presents students with a project timeline that assigns them specific dates for rehearsal.  This rehearsal is assigned as homework, and students practice giving their presentations outside of the classroom in order to prepare for the actual recording.  A teacher may choose to check that students are rehearsing by asking them to say their voicemail to a partner at the beginning of a class meeting. 

On the day of recording, the teacher can set up phones in the Criss Auditorium or allow students to use their cell phones (in an approved area) to record the voicemail.  Students dial the phone number that the teacher has established.  This allows students to record, self-assess, and then re-record as needed.  A teacher may choose to differentiate this project by allowing students to speak from a short outline/script, have more/less recording time, or by increasing/decreasing the required length of the voicemail. 

This project allows students to give their presentation over and over again.  The recording process challenges students to self-assess and correct their own mistakes before presenting the instructor with a final version of the presentation.   The teacher can pause, rewind, fast forward, and even save the voicemail for publication on the portal.  By using a rubric the teacher can provide very specific feedback from which a student can improve future presentations. 

Click below to listen to a student voicemail that was recording when I did this project in my Spanish classes this semester.


Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes on Thursday May 3, 2012 at 10:02AM
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Local History Documentaries

By Kim Meyer, Social Studies Department

In an attempt to introduce local history topics to my juniors, I asked the Prep Moms if they would provide the funding for the purchase of fifteen Sony Bloggies, with the expectation that they would be used to conduct interviews and take pictures to be included in the production of documentaries.  Thanks to their generosity (and the generosity of time given by Beth Ginger who provided training to my students on how to use MovieMaker and iMovie) my second semester research project morphed from a traditional paper to a more dynamic presentation which required good research and the ability to effectively use technology to tell a story.

As all teachers have all experienced, at times, students have a tendency to procrastinate.  Although I broke-up this assignment into various tasks and due dates, I still had to ignore their pleas for extensions and delete their emails promising me $5 bribes and other gifts to supplement my income.  The most difficult aspect of this project seemed to be their selection of topics.  Although we went over the development of the national railroad extensively during first semester, they pretended to be unaware that Union Pacific originated in Omaha and therefore, would qualify as a local history topic.  Rather than asking Diane Sands to pull local history resources or provide links to helpful websites (which she generously did!), next year I am tempted to give my students a list of 50 possible topics and require that they physically walk into a library, the Douglas County Historical Society, or the Durham Archives … rather than conjure up most resources on the web. 

Other insights that I have gained upon completion of this project:

1.   “Partners” does not mean equal work.  “Partners” means one industrious student + one lazy student = final project done by one student.

2.   Tom Hoover is not a historical expert on five different topics…although he is a very nice guy and gives a good interview.  Same comment for Vince Strand.

3.   Boys think they are funny.  Humor has no place in history…because as Dr. Ashton Welch told me at Creighton University, “Historians do not have feelings.”  Historians convey, they do not entertain.

4.  Since this was the first year I required all of my students to complete a documentary in lieu of a research paper, I should have had a stronger example of what the expectations were.  Next year, I shall use Connor McCoy’s documentary about Peony Park.  For those of you who enjoyed Sprite Night, saw your life flash in front of your eyes on any of the amusements run by youngsters under the age of 18, or splashed around in the pool….enjoy.

Posted by Blog in Time Honored Teaching, Instructional Technology Bytes on Monday April 23, 2012 at 10:16AM
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Universal Design for Learning

From Melanie Nuffer, Information Sciences Department

For my graduate course work I created a VoiceThread presentation on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). I am sharing this with you as I feel that the concepts of UDL help to provide teachers with a way to differentiate and provide our students with the customized learning experience that Prep promises each student. The presentation is embedded below (be sure your volume is turned on or you have headphones since there are audio explanations). If the presentation does not appear below, you may also view the VoiceThread by clicking here.

Feel free to comment on the VoiceThread itself, here on the blog, or better yet, stop for a visit so that we can continue the discussion of UDL and share ideas for lesson plans.
Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes, Cura Personalis Moments on Wednesday April 11, 2012 at 08:27AM
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Using Wikispaces in Social Studies

From Sarah Mlnarik, Social Studies Department

I value the importance of trying to incorporate technology into my classroom assignments.  I also have a great love of reading and believe it is important to have students reading fiction in a context other than English class.

During second semester my students sign up to read one of 11 different works of historical fiction.  Their reading groups are cross-sectional, and their communication occurs through a wikispace. Click here to see this semester's Wiki.

Students follow a reading schedule from January to March, completing the reading and discussion of the book prior to spring break.  Their conversation topics range from plot discussions to character analysis to historical curiosity. Below, you can view what the discussion board looks like. You can click on the image to explore the student responses.

After Spring Break, students are given several options for completing technology based products that relate the characters and the action in the book with historical truth.  Students produce newspapers and websites, they film videos and newscasts, they write book reviews and create glogsters, scrapbooks, and animoto videos.  While the project is currently ongoing, I have examples from last year.  Below, you can see an example of a student Glog (an interactive online "poster). Click on the image to interact with the Glog.

I enjoy having students learn about how historical knowledge and literature interact.  I also enjoy reading the books and sharing that reading experience with students.  My book list isn’t perfect but it keeps growing as we keep on reading.

Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes on Tuesday February 21, 2012 at 12:57PM
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Moving Beyond Butcher Block Paper to a Digital Canvas

From Morgan Helton, English Department

The Project

To conclude the short stories unit, my English I students partake in a group project that challenges them to apply the reading strategies and analytical skills that we have been honing since the beginning of the year. Each group is given a focus short story, and they must strategically collaborate to prepare and publish a written report that details literary analysis questions about their story, connections to concepts, themes and other literary devices to other short stories selected for the class project, and, finally, points of relevance to the real world. This information is then used as the anchor for our forum, the prompts for our whole class discussion. During this forum, the students participate individually and are required to and actively engage and take notes on the discussion as it unfolds.

By design, much of this class discussion focuses on content not generated in the group project.   For instance, when analyzing the role of fear in the short story “By the Waters of Babylon,” the focus group may recognize the role of fear in their story and draw a comparison to how fear entraps the main characters in the short story “Once Upon a Time.” As the discussion continues, another member from an outside group might provide a real life example that had not been considered by the presenting group, like the impact of 9/11 on our society. This may lead to the specific example of airport security measures and how these precautionary measures sometimes have ironic consequences on our quality of life. The true worth of the forum is found in this interactive exchange. Initial questions lead to greater questions and connections provoke more provocative analogies not previously considered. It is at this time that members recognize not only the limitations of their initial analysis but also affords them the opportunity to further pursue their analysis of the works. The conclusion of the first day forum allows the students to reflect and augment their talking points for the following class. Invariably, the second class forum produces discussions that are richer and more student-driven than the first.  As a whole class pursuit, the class forum serves to be dynamic learning pursuit.

The Assessment

Because the forum serves to be more of a learning experience instead of a demonstration or evaluation of learning, a summative component is needed to provide an opportunity for the students to demonstrate their synthesis of the information from the class discussion.  I want them to be able to articulate the learning that they have gained first as an individual as well as in collaboration with their small group and whole community of learners. Writing a paper or even creating a PowerPoint on a theme or topic generated during the project would not serve the aim of my project. Since this narrative created in class over the past two days was not sequential, it would be difficult to produce an end product that reflected the depth and scope of the material. The goal, therefore, is to have the students produce a subject-centered project that demonstrates the more fleshed out main ideas while also showing the multiple and varied connections and conclusions they unearthed. To that end, the guys are asked to collaborate on a graphic organizer. They are charged with creating a picture that captures the bigger picture of the project.     

The Rub

In the past I have simply used oversized paper and markers for this synthesis activity, but doing so posed certain challenges both in logistics and pedagogy.  To begin, it was an activity largely relegated to the classroom. Second, it encouraged passive participation, with an imbalance of workload among the member.  The collaboration strategies already practiced were being abandoned in the final stage often because students couldn’t see past roles of recorder and standby contributors. The artistic one was given the job of writing and the others sat around volunteering ideas, but clearly all members had a hard time staying engaged in the process.  The greatest weakness of working with the butcher paper was that it didn’t encourage reflection and revision, the key components to this learning activity. Now once something was put on the paper, the guys were reluctant to manipulate it. It was clear that the pencil and paper approach allowed the students some closure to the assignment, but complacency had set in at the worst possible time.  They were beginning to settle.    

The Fix

I approached our instructional technologist with these considerations, and she immediately began researching on line canvas boards before finally suggesting Conceptboard (http://conceptboard.com/). I wanted to be sure that the technology served the purpose rather than becoming the primary objective. Sure, I wanted to develop the assignment to fuller completion, but not at the cost of losing the objective to” fun time with computers.”   My concerns went unfounded.   After a short introduction provided by Mattie Olsen, each student was able to work from his own iPad or laptop on his group’s project at the same time. Immediately, this activity became a more dynamic and collaborative process.  Some group members color coded their contribution to the canvas to ensure accountability and equity, but engagement and participation was not an issue. Most vital was that the materials could be manipulated with ease. Classmates once again challenged each other; they deliberated, argued and compromised about what information they were to use and how to demonstrate these concepts on the canvas.   Using this technology actually encouraged greater critical thinking and further analysis. The students were also able to work outside of class and still collaborate from remote locations. There was a minimal graphic requirement, and during our evaluation of their final work the students often recognized which canvases were more aesthetically appealing. Yet style never overshadowed substance, it enhanced it. The most important advantage of using this technology was that it demonstrated a considered and revised product. With the assistance of the Conceptboard, the guys had a better finished product while also being able to better engage in the learning process. 

Posted by Blog in Instructional Technology Bytes, The Reflective Practioner on Wednesday February 8, 2012 at 09:55AM
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From Mike Higgins, Science Department

Socrates said, “Wisdom begins in wonder.” As a teacher, I believe that questions nurture this wonder. They develop the content, engage the student and assess mastery. Here are a few ideas for effective questions to students.

Shake It Up I tend to call on students who know the answer. As much as this helps advance the lecture, it doesn’t help students who are struggling. Here are some of the ways I break from this tendency:

Split It Up The ideal question is bite size. It’s a small piece of a big picture. The more questions the better.  With more questions it’s easier to find one that fits the student, reviews old material, makes the material more accessible, develops new material or makes the material more relevant.

  • I have a cottage cheese container filled with numbered poker chips: I will ask a question, draw for who answers.  
  • For more student involvement, I’ll ask a question and have the last student who gave a correct answer pick who answers next. 
  • For maximum student involvement, I’ll turn to Gambling for a Grade (this is different from traditional grade gambling where students don’t study and gamble they will pass). Each turn a student rolls two dice: one determines which student answers the other what question they answer.  With a group of four, I’ll usually do 8 turns, and then give a collective grade. I’m consistently, pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and focus this generates. I’ve seen a student come in before school to review material, so he would not let his team down.

Measure It Keep track of how your students do. Clickers are great for this. QuestionPress, as described in Mattie’s article, is a slick system that utilizes the students’ own devices. Smartclickers utilize our Smartboards and allow you to put the question up in front of the whole class (Mike Clark is the Smartclicker Whisperer). But if you don’t have clickers, there are other approaches. A show of hands will give you input. I also like to keep track of status changes: how many students are getting the material today that normally don’t or vice versa. This input, whether precise or ballpark, will help you know where your class is.

Many of the ideas in here were inspired by (or stolen from) Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. It’s a fine source of excellent teaching techniques.

Image credit: "Question" by Cesar Bojorquez licensed under Creative Commons

Posted by Blog in Time Honored Teaching, Cura Personalis Moments on Tuesday January 24, 2012 at 01:39PM
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