Craig McClellan, 2nd Grade TN Teacher

Who are you and what do you do?IMG_0329

My name is Craig McClellan, and I teach 2nd grade at a public school in Nashville, TN. I am also a graduate student studying Instructional Practice in ELL (English Language Learners), and blog about technology (mostly
Apple) in education at The Class Nerd. You can find me on twitter at @craigmcclellan.

What hardware are you using?

Here’s my personal setup:

  • 2013 13’ Retina Macbook Pro w/ 2.4GHz i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB hard drive. OS X 10.11 Public Beta
  • iPad Air 2 in Silver w/ 64GB HardDrive iOS 9
    Public Beta
  • iPhone 6 in Silver w/ 64GB HardDrive iOS 9 Public Beta
  • Apple Watch Stainless Steel 42mm w/Classic Buckle and White Sport Band

I purchased the Macbook Pro in the spring of 2014 when my beloved Macbook Air was stolen. At the time, the pricing between an Air and Pro with similar RAM and storage was only $100. It made a financial sense to get a more powerful machine with a retina display for so little more (relatively). However
, I have missed the form factor of the Macbook Air every day since I got this machine. It was my favorite Mac I’ve ever owned.

The iPad Air 2 is also a delight to use, and I find myself using it as much if not more than my Mac. The new features coming in iOS 9 have m
ade this device a force to be reckoned with.

My next iPhone will definitely be in the 6+ size (though probably not for another year). Now that I have an Apple Watch, I don’t take my phone out of my pocket as much, so the larger size won’t be as inconvenient. However, I’d like to be able to do more work on my phone when I do use it.

The Apple Watch is a delight, especially in the classroom. I can leave my phone plugged into my classroom sound system and still get my most important notifications^1 on my wrist. As much as I hate to admit it, my phone can be a distraction even in the classroom. The watch keeps me more engaged with my students. I can’t wait for watchOS 2 this month though. Native apps, and 3rd party complications are going to be amazing.

My classroom also has 3 old Dell desktops (one for me, and 2 for students), an iPad 4, 2 iPad minis on the way, and a Mimio smartboard (to be installed in the next few days).

And what software?

Software for Personal Productivity

One of my main requirements for personal productivity software is that it be available on Mac and both iOS devices and have some way to sync. I move between my devices so much I need my tools to be consistent.

Ulysses: Ulysses is a Markdown text editor for Mac and iPad (though iPhone is on the way). Markdown is a way of writing in plain text that allows you to quickly write, add in formatting, but not have to spend a lot of time on formatting like in a word processor. The goal of writing in Markdown is to write. Markdown editors are everywhere these days, and while there are some other really good ones out there, I always come back to Ulysses for its organization of files. It makes writing long passages (I’m currently working on a 35-50 page research paper for grad school) far easier to work with. I write for my blog, parent newsletters, grad school assignments, and more all in Ulysses. My responses to these questions were written on both my Mac and iPad using Ulysses.

OmniFocus: OmniFocus is my task manager of choice. If I’m being honest, the beginning of the school year is so insane that I’m not good at maintaining my OmniFocus lists. I try to follow David Allen’s GTD system though, and I always find I’m more stressed out when I don’t stick with it well.

Apple Notes: Right? Who would have thought. Having been on the El Capitan and iOS 9 public betas, I can say that I love Apple’s updated Notes apps. While they’re not perfect, they have definitely taken over nvALT as my main way of taking short notes.

Workflow: I’ve written a post on my blog about how I use Workflow, but I’ll add to it by saying the new version 1.3 which came out last week has added some killer new features.

Due: Due is relatively new to my setup, but already I dispensable. I use Due to remind me to do a task at a certain time. So while OmniFocus holds all of my tasks and allows me to choose what to focus on while working, Due reminds me to deliver a paper to the office during my planning period or call a parent right after school. Due is great because it bugs you ever 1, 5, or 10 minutes (your choice) until you complete the task. Plus it works great with Apple Watch.

Evernote: I begrudgingly place Evernote on this list as I’m actively trying to stop using it. I dislike the direction the company is going in every way and am looking for a good alternative to store and search my paperless files. I’m considering iCloud Drive and iOS 9’s search.

Drafts: Teaching is fast paced and difficult. Having an app I can open, immediately input text, and then do what I want with it later is amazing.

Software for Teaching

This is an area I’m continuing to expand, but with limited access to devices for students, I am working on finding great software and tools to use with the new smartboard though.

Google Drive: Working with 2nd graders, I don’t require each student to have their own google account. Instead, I have created a class account that my students can access to write documents in. I can then copy and paste their work to my class Squarespace blog to share with parents.

Drafts: Though I use drafts for myself as well, it’s really handy for student work. I set it up on student iPads with actions to send whatever they type to either a Google Drive file or a text file in Dropbox for with their name for me to grade.

Remind: I use Remind for parent communication, and absolutely love it. Quick reminders when forms are due, when students have PE and need tennis shoes, and more are really nice.

Squarespace: For longer news than Remind can transmit, I have a class blog hosted by Squarespace. I also post student work there to share with parents and other family.

I’ve tried a handful of other apps, and they’re fine. I do have plans to add more when my classroom gets more iPads in the coming weeks as well. For example, I want to record myself reading stories and store it on Soundcloud to students to use during Daily 5’s Listen to Reading.

How has your workflow and your teaching changed from when you first started?

As this is only my second year teaching, it hasn’t that much. The primary areas have been my attempts to reorganize my GTD system (emphasis on the word attempts), and my abandoning Evernote. I am excited to see how a smartboard in the classroom changes things for me as well.

What would your dream set up be?

Ideally, I would have an iMac in my classroom (and if we’re talking dream, it would be a 27inch Retina iMac) at my desk. It would be connected to the projector and smartboard, and I would do most of my work related computing tasks on it. Then have a smaller laptop (probably the new Macbook) and iPad setup for portable work like blogging and grad school writing.

I would love to have my students be 1:1 with iPads. I think that could be a game changer. I think the iPad Mini 2 is ideal for that. It’s a great form factor, not extremely expensive, and still really powerful. With that, I could have more personalized experiences for each student.

Finally, I would really like a File Transporter to store my paperless system in.
The convenience of cloud storage without the security concerns? Sign me up.

^1: Mostly messages and reminders from OmniFocus and Due.

Two additional questions

Do you backup your data? If so how?

I have a Time Capsule at home that I use for my Mac, and I use iCloud backups for my iOS Devices. I plan on getting a Blackblaze subscription for my Mac soon, but am trying to save some money right now.

How do you separate your school and personal life?

Not very well. Especially with grad school connecting the two so often.

The main thing I’ve tried to do is listen to myself when I’m overwhelmed and take a break. I will often push myself to the edge and still have things to do. At that point, I have to stop and say my health and sanity is more important than this lesson or graduate assignment. I can’t kill myself or I’m no good to my students or my family.

Also a side mention, do you recommend installing the beta’s?

I won’t do it again next year unless Apple opens up testflight to external testers. I wanted to get betas of apps
and review them, but that hasn’t happened. The new features are nice, but not worth the frustration of the beta if I can’t get any good stories for The Class Nerd out of them.

Sandy Freeland: 3rd Grade Teacher and Tech Development

Who are you and what do you do?

10389084_10204673949548127_2189366482901295330_n (1)My name is Sandy Freeland. I am in my third year teaching full-time at McBain Elementary School in McBain, MI. It is a small (about 1,000 kids) K-12 connected building. I also taught part-time and in long-term substitute positions in McBain for 6 years prior to my full-time hire status. I’ll be teaching 3rd grade for the second year this year. I’ve also taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade.

In addition to classroom teaching, I’ve also provided technology professional development for the district for 3 years. This year will be my first year as the official Technology Integration Coach. I am 22i-TRIG trained and a REMC BLiC certified instructor. I am also part of a small team of Michigan 3rd grade teachers that will be working on creating a digital, interactive social studies textbook this year. This is part of the MI Open Book Project led by Dave Johnson. I am excited to be part of this process!

In my time outside of the classroom I can be found learning from others in Twitter chats (@TechyTeacher1), participating in groups on Facebook (#TechCoachTribe, Third Grade Tribe, Small Fish Teacher Blogger to name a few), and working on developing a coding club for my school. One goal I have this year it to become a better blogger. I have presented at a number of conferences, so I am trying to become a better blogger by sharing links to my presentations on my blog, I also enjoy running, reading, cake decorating, and spending time with my family…not necessarily in that order!

What hardware are you using?

Our entire K-12 district is 1:1 devices. All teachers have a MacBook Pro 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB 1600MHz DDR3, running Yosemite OS X. K-4 is 1:1 iPads, with Kindergarten using iPad Minis and 1st-4th using iPad Airs. Grades 5-12 are 1:1 MacBook Airs. We also have access to projectors in each classroom that are connected to AppleTV for AirPlay capabilities. In addition to these devices, we also have 3 computer labs that have 30 Dell PCs running Windows 7. These computers are left over from our pre-1:1 days.

And what software?

As a Technology Integration Coach, I’m often piloting different software and then sharing it with my staff members. Due to this, my list changes often, but here is a list of my current go-to’s for software right now.

Software Tools For Classroom Use:

Schoology: This is the LMS that our school uses. We have PowerSchool, and with Schoology’s PowerSchool integration, it makes my job easy! I create tests in Schoology as I’m working toward creating a paperless classroom. Written tasks can be graded by the teacher, otherwise it is graded by the software. From there it is synced with PowerSchool Gradebook. I also create assignments that my students can complete in Google Docs or Book Creator. Once completed, they can upload the files to Schoology. Voila! The piles of papers to-be-graded are no longer so large!

ClassKick: This is an app that allows teachers to create assignments, share them with their students, and then see what each student is doing simultaneously. Students can work through the assignment at their own pace. They can also raise their hand to ask for help without signaling in front of other students, as well as receive support from their classmates through the app. I’m new to this app, but I plan on using it during my Daily 5 reading and Daily 3 math stations this year. Students will be working on meaningful learning tasks while I am able to meet with individuals for one-to-one conferring. I’m really looking forward to digging deeper into this app this coming school year.

Skoolbo: My students LOVE this app! Skoolbo is a FREE common core math and ela practice app. Student accounts are created by me. Students log in and are taken through a few tasks for each content in order to place them where they are at. As the teacher, I can also assign specific tasks for them. At this time, the reports option is still not operational, but from the dashboard I can choose a student and see what they have been working on.

Book Creator (Free): We use the free version of Book Creator often. Last year I had my students create a recyclables book, as well as research the three main industries in Michigan and create an informational book about them in Book Creator. Users are limited in the amount of books they can make, but if you export your book as a PDF, you can delete everything and make a new book! I plan on bringing more research projects into my classroom this year, and Book Creator will allow my students to have a choice in how they present their information.

LearnZillion: LearnZillion has a free database of video lessons to support students. These lessons are Common Core aligned. They allow students to choose the standard and assign lesson videos to individuals or the whole class. Students can respond to the videos by completing notes about the videos. I plan on using this feature in ClassKick and/or with Explain Everything this year. Explain Everything can be uploaded to Schoology as well! I like that my students can use these videos as extra teaching on the skills they need during center time and at home!

Bloomz: I am excited to use the Bloomz App this year to bring my parent communication to a new level! Last year I used Remind and ClassDojo, along with my paper newsletter, to keep in contact with parents. This year I have created a Bloomz classroom. Bloomz allows me to share photos, message parents, share my newsletter, and share my classroom calendar with parents in a safe, private environment. Parents can even sign up to volunteer in the classroom through the app! Once your class is created, you can email parents the invite code. They go to the website, enter the invitation code, and they are set! Instead of having to post my update on my classroom webpage, my Remind account, and in ClassDojo, now I just go to one place. I can message individuals or groups. It is accessible on the computer and also through the iTunes and Play store.

Software Tools for Professional Learning & Connections:

Twitter: There are no words that can explain the value of the education connections that I have made on Twitter. It seems that there are so many educators on Twitter, but many educators that I know personally are not taking advantage of the awesome professional resource! I have learned more by participating in #MichEd chats (chats concerning topics relevant to Michigan educators), #edtechchat (chats concerning educational technology practices and pedagogy), and so many more! I definitely recommend taping the power of Twitter to enhance your professional learning and networking! You can find me by searching the Twitter handle @TechyTeacher1

Facebook Groups: Another professional tool that I feel does not get as much use as it could is the Groups feature on Facebook. Many teachers that do not feel comfortable exploring Twitter are connecting with others on Facebook.

Periscope: Periscope is all the rage right now! It is owned by Twitter. Periscope lets users open their world to any individual that is a Periscope user. It’s like Skype and Twitter combined, but instead of having a two-way video convo, the “Scoper” communicates with others by video broadcast. Viewers are able to comment and share hearts if they love what they are hearing. Most of the people that I follow are educators. I don’t tend to watch too many scopes live because there is often connectivity issues on the end of the scoper. Instead, I usually watch the replay. Scopes are available for 24 hours on Periscope following the live broadcast. Many scopers save their scopes and upload them to YouTube or their blogs. The best use of Periscope that I have experienced has been being able to “attend” conferences through the Periscopes created by individuals that are actually there!

How has your workflow and your teaching changed from when you first started?

When I first started teaching we had four PCs in the classroom and access to the computer lab. Halfway through teaching 2nd grade, I purchased an iPad 2. That was so exciting! During those days, I was weighed down by papers to grade and trying to create an open learning environment. It was very difficult to connect my students learning to anything outside of our school walls. Now I’m able to create a digital learning space in which my students are able to choose what tool works best for them to express their learning. I can assign tasks that meet their individual needs. They are connecting to other students in different states. My students are truly beginning to become global learners and I’m able to provide support to them at their level without having to constantly meet in small groups. I’ve become the instructor in the middle, a guide per se, instead of the holder of all knowledge.

When I had that first iPad, I used it mainly as a tool for consumption. My students used apps for fact and skill practice in small groups, but that was all. Now all of my students have iPads. They are able to continue to practice facts and skills, but they have also become creators. They are able to create and send their work to me digitally. I’ve cut down on the time I spend grading papers as I can use Schoology’s self-grading and PowerSchool Gradebook feature. This is definitely a smart use and eases my workflow!

What would your dream set up be?
I am fortunate that my dream setup is extremely close to what I have right now! The one item that would make it perfect would be to have a 3D printer in my classroom! I would love to have a SMARTboard and have control of my iPads. Otherwise, I’m teaching in my ideal setup.

Lindsey Reynolds

      Who are you and what do you do?

lindseypic (2)I am Lindsey Reynolds. I am a public school teacher with six years experience in a Title I middle school teaching English at Loris Middle School. I recently made a move to high school English at North Myrtle Beach High  and this upcoming year will be my first year there. My district is Horry County which is the third largest district in the state of South Carolina. I have a Master of Education in Instructional Technology and I am about to start my Ed.S. in Instructional Technology this fall. The mix of who I am and what I do really makes me who I am. I am a teacher because I am a learner and I want to instill that in every student I meet. When not working, I’m active on Twitter (@Lindsey_EdWrite) learning new technology and tools to use in my classroom. I’m a huge proponent of building life-long readers in my classroom, and believe that making students good citizens and lovers of reading and learning is more important than their score on the state test.

What hardware are you using?

I am blessed in that my district is 1:1. Grades 5-8, each student has his/her own iPad. Grades 9-12 each student has his/her own Dell Venue. Teachers also receive the device that belongs with the level they teach. Previously I had an iPad given to me from my district, this year I will receive a Dell Venue like my students. Personally, I have my own iPad and iPhone which are just extended versions of my own human limbs. My iPhone is my go-to for notes, reminders, scheduling, etc. In my dream world I am a Mac user, but in reality I have a district-issued Dell and at home I have a personal computer running windows. I’m waiting for the right time to bite the bullet and be able to justify the purchase of a brand new Mac.

I’m also one of those oddballs that sees the huge impact of pen and paper. So I am a colored pen collector, and notebook consumer. There’s something about writing that makes me sigh still. Despite all of the technology I have around me at home and at school, there’s something really important and really impactful about pen and paper. I also have my students keep hand-written notebooks in class. It’s just an art that I value and I want my students to value as well.

All buildings in the district have SmartBoards and projectors. In my classroom, I tended to use this as a projector screen alone. It was very easy for the SmartBoard to need to recalibrated, so honestly I didn’t use it other than to project on to. Most of the teachers in the school used it quite similarly to me. The middle school I taught at was Title I so we received those funds from the government, and much of those funds went to the acquisition of technology. We had several Macbook Air carts as well as windows laptop carts.

And what software?

By no means is this an all-inclusive list because I’m sure there’s going to be something I forget, but to the best of my ability, here goes nothing:

Twitter: I don’t know that there is a tool out there right now that has the under-used potential in the education field like Twitter. Twitter is my go-to for a connection to other educators. If I have a question or need help, I type it in Twitter and bam, it goes off to some of the smartest people in the whole world. As a district, we block it, which is in my opinion one of the biggest mistakes we could make. This year I plan to use Twitter as my backchannel in my classroom. On students’ personal devices (cell phones) where Twitter is not blocked, we’ll develop a hashtag and students can document their learning. I plan on using some kind of tool to display these tweets as a back channel in my room. I’m not sure which one yet. Any input is totally welcomed!

Class Dojo: I used this a lot in middle school, but I’m not sure how it will roll over to high school. I used this as behavior management in some of my classes at the middle school level. Basically you upload your classes to the site and it assigns a (aptly created) monster to the name so all the kids are monsters. You can create behaviors “started bell work” “helping others” “on task” and then give points for those behaviors. I had a projector in my room that ONLY projected Classdojo so I could have it up all the time even if I’m showing something on my main Dell and projector. For more advanced classes that didn’t need the behavior element I used it to keep track of talking during discussions like Socratic seminars. I would just have the behaviors “referred to the text” “politely disagreed” and things of that nature.

Google Classroom: If I were listing my software from most important to me, to least (which I’m not) this would be number one. My Google Classroom is the hub of my room. I post every assignment, every document, handout, worksheet, etc. here. It keeps me organized because I can grade right on the site, and if it is turned in digitally I don’t have to worry about losing it! Google Classroom organizes all of the assignments into their own folders in my Google Drive. It really is my lifeline in the classroom. It helps my students stay connected and organized because due dates show up on the side of the page and lets them go back to previous documents in case they are missing work. I prefer this to Edmodo simply because Edmodo got clumsy for me after they redesigned.

Google Apps for Education: Going off of Google Classroom, all of the Apps for Ed are  excellent and I use them all in various and numerous ways. I use Docs for students to edit or  they can collaborate with others. I use Forms for assessments, entrance and exit tickets, polls, etc. I have my students save everything they create in their Drive. The possibilities are endless.

Kahoot and Quizizz: Both of these are tools I use to review information before a test or quiz. They both turn student devices into essentially a buzzer or clicker. Both are in a  more game style where students are rewarded with points and a leaderboard. Both are quick to create or you can search for already created content and use it as is or edit it.

iMovie: In my classroom I think it’s important for students to be able to show what they’ve learned however best suits them. iMovie has been a great application that allows students to create content. As learning shifts from just learning information to how to sift through it and synthesize it, getting to the ‘create’ level of Bloom’s becomes even more important. I’ve had students make documentaries, book trailers, book reports, etc. iMovie has allowed them to showcase their learning in amazing ways.

Edpuzzle: Edpuzzle is the perfect tool to deliver information in a student-friendly way. After uploading or finding a video I can share it with my students. From there it shows up as an assignment and they watch the video, stopping to answer questions I’ve put in to guide their thinking, they can rewatch parts that they struggled with. All of this gets transferred to a neat and tidy report I can see how many times they rewatched sections, scores, who finished (who didn’t). It’s a tool I like because it lets students work at their own pace. I also like mixing in video as a medium to make things a little more lively.

Blogging: I have my students do a weekly blog. Sometimes it’s to practice grammar/writing skills we studied that week, sometimes it’s simply to get them writing. I’ve tried different platforms. I’ve used Edublogs which I think has a lot of neat features, but can get complicated. I’ve also used kidblog which I thought was complicated to log into. This coming year my plan is to use Blogger with my kids. The district creates a gmail address for each student in the district, so they will already have their log in for that which streamlines an impossibly difficult process of username and password chaos.

DonorsChoose: I believe in public education, and even more than that I believe in people who believe in public education. I’ve gotten eight DonorsChoose projects fully funded in the past year. This past school year I replaced all of my classroom desks with clover tables that helped foster community and encouraged my students to work together. I also received funding for a kidney table where I meet with my small groups. Right now I have a project listed for a Mac (not for me…unfortunately) so I can give my students in-class access to things like iMovie and podcasting software. I’d love to start a weekly podcast run by students. This is a great site that exists to help teachers.

Shameless plug: This just happens to be my DonorsChoose link –

This is by no means an exhaustive list, these are just the ones that come to mind most readily.

How has your workflow and your teaching changed from when you first started?

I like to think I’ve gone from working harder to smarter. Six years ago I wanted to be perfect. I needed to be the person in the room who knew everything. Since then, our 1:1 initiative makes it impossible to know everything and be up on all the Apps. Now I feel comfortable saying “We’re going to work on this project. I’ve listed some suggested Apps. If there’s one you want to use that is not on the list, come show me how it works.” Kids are more tech savvy than even the savviest educators, so learning from them takes some work off of my plate while also allowing them to be in the teacher’s seat. It helps them to see you as a human while also seeing they have a lot to offer. I love saying “I don’t know how to use that but so-and-so can teach you.” They are huge resources to me and each other.
As an English teacher, I think my biggest gripe was all of the reading, papers, and grading. Doing as much stuff digitally as possible helps me to keep everything organized. I can type a lot faster than I can talk, so that makes feedback a lot faster. I’ve also played around (only minorly successfully) with verbal recorded feedback. I think everything I’ve learned over the years has allowed me to work smarter, reserving my limited supply of time and energy for more important things, like really connecting with my students and trying to think outside of the box to make English come alive for them.

What would your dream set up be?

I love being a 1:1 district. In my dream world there would be more guidelines in place. Yes, previously I looked down on the district for blocking things like Twitter, but the expectation in my district is we’re working in blended learning groups – I like this idea. I don’t like the lack of control I have over the devices that aren’t sitting in front of me. Threats and grades only do so much. So I love 1:1, just want more control.

Ideally I would also be a Mac-toting teacher with an awesome skin of some sort that truly symbolized me. I would also like to try to move beyond the classroom. Now, don’t get me wrong- I LOVE my students. However, technology is a part of everything I do, and I’ve seen the amazing impact it can have on students. I want to share that with others. Rather than designing technology into my own lesson plans, I want to help coach teachers in how to do that too. I want to get teachers excited again. I think educators right now are so beat down by test scores and rules and regulations that it’s hard. I want to use technology to reinvigorate their teaching. I see myself in the future in a coach or consultant role to do just that.

As of right now, I’m content. I can’t wait for a new year to start so I can try new things, and energize some new students into see what I see in learning and growing.