Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Spatial Reasoning: How to Build It and Why it’s Important

Spatial Reasoning: How to Build It and Why it’s Important
Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D.

Spatial thinking includes the positions of objects and shapes and how they relate to each other.  Linn and Petersen (1985) define spatial sense as the “mental process used to perceive, store, recall, create, edit and communicate spatial images” (p. 1479). Spatial reasoning includes all of these definitions, but also decides how efficiently you pack your suitcase or load your dishwasher!

 Below is an example that requires spatial reasoning.

Using any combination of the pattern blocks above, determine the greatest and fewest number of pattern blocks possible to fill the figure.


Spatial reasoning skills are vitally important. Students with strong spatial reasoning skills are more likely to be successful in STEM disciplines (Hutton & Taylor, 2013), including medicine, architecture, graphic design, and geography. Additionally, research indicates that improving students’ spatial skills also leads to improved achievement in problem solving, critical thinking and mathematics.

Spatial visualization is not intuitive. Students do not automatically grow in spatial reasoning, but rather through experience and practice (Clements, Samara & Wilson, 2004). Many students in the United States lack the experiences to build spatial reasoning skills. This is particularly true to females, whose toys are less likely to require spatial skill for play. Fortunately, research indicates that through carefully selected activities, students can improve their spatial reasoning (Casey, Andrews, Schiendler, Kersh, Samper & Copley, 2008).

Spatial Reasoning Activities for your Chromebook

1.      Use Google Maps to investigate location, magnitude, and relative distance and directions. Try this lesson plan from National Geographic Education Collection. (http://bit.ly/2HlfpWI)

2.      Use Google Draw to explore Tangrams and investigate moving, rotating and translating shapes. After solving some puzzles encourage students to design puzzles to challenge other students. Try these puzzles to get you started. (http://bit.ly/2ovfpbX)

3.      Have students explore photography and videography. This provides the opportunity for students to experiment with different angles and senses of scale. This is a great chance to try WeVideo (It’s included for Nevada Ready 21 schools). (https://www.wevideo.com/)

4.      Try Desmos (It’s included for Nevada Ready 21 schools) to investigate surface area and nets. Try this multi-day lesson plan from a Google Certified Educator (https://jennvadnais.com/2016/05/21/nets-surface-area-desmos/)

5.      Learn to play music. Many researchers have found that playing music increases spatial skills. Have you tried Noteflight yet? It’s included for Nevada Ready 21 schools).  (https://www.noteflight.com/)

6.      Make time for (carefully chosen) video games. Research shows that games where the individual is playing in “first person” significantly increases the likelihood of visualizing movement. You might also try the classic video game Tetris which significantly increases spatial rotation skills!


Casey, B. M., Andrews, N., Schindler, H., Kersh, J. E., Samper, A. and Copley, J. (2008). The development of spatial skills through interventions involving block-building activities’. Cognition and Instruction, 26(3), 269–309.

 Clements, D. H., Wilson, D. C. and Sarama, J. (2004). Young children’s composition of geometric figures: A learning trajectory. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 6(2), 163–184.

Hutton, A., & Taylor, H. A. (2013). Training spatial thinking fundamental to STEM education. Cognitive Processing, 31(4), 434–455

Linn, M. C., & Petersen, A. C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 56(6), 1479-1498.






Monday, February 5, 2018

Eastern Nevada Digital Learning Summit

  The Summit is coming!!!!  The question is Are You Ready?  The Nevada Ready 21 team is proud to announce the Eastern Nevada Digital Learning Summit is happening on Saturday, February 10, 2018, at Adobe Middle School in Elko, Nevada.  So, mark it on your calendars, buy your ticket(s), get ready to learn some new information and while you're at it earn a .5 CEU!
     This year's topics range from Making the Best of Google Docs: Google Keep to NearPod to Formative Assessment Tools in the Digital Age.  I am personally excited to present Everybody was Google Drawing and Podcast in the Classroom, so if those topics have your teacher senses tingling make sure to be there.  
Information is posted on the flyers below.  I hope to see you there!

Felicia Wilson
Las Vegas

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Increase Learning with InsertLearning

Install this new Chrome extension and easily turn any webpage into an interactive lesson.

InsertLearning can help you deliver digital content to your students and also provide data to help you guide instruction.I believe InsertLearning will be a game-changer in digital and blended learning!

The extension allows anyone to take any online content (including content that you might have on a published Google Doc) and insert annotations, sticky notes, open-ended or multiple choice questions, and discussion forums. The best part about this new extension is its seamless integration with Google Classroom. That's right, you can build an entire online lesson in minutes and assign it to your students enrolled in your various Classrooms!

How can I get started?

If you have not already done so, sign-up for a free account and install the InsertLearning extension with this link. Use your G Suite account when you sign up and don't forget to indicate that you are a teacher!

In order for the extension to work properly, all of your students will also need a free account. When they sign up with their G Suite accounts, they will have to indicate that they are students.

This is a "freemium" product. This means that you will be able to create 5 lessons using the extension. If you want to create more, the cost is $40 for the year.  You can earn free months by sharing a link with your colleagues. As they sign up, you and your colleagues will receive free months.

After you have signed up and properly installed the extension, navigate to any webpage then click on the InsertLearning extension button from your browser. The toolbar pictured on the left will show up on webpage you navigated to.

What can I do with it?

The InsertLearning toolbar will let you "insert learning" onto any webpage to make it more interactive. Before you assign anything to your students, however, you do need to put in a little elbow grease to increase the interactivity.

You can direct your students' attention to a specific passage in a reading and even add your own commentary with the pen highlight tool. To show you how easy it is to use this tool, I created a simple lesson using a Nevada Ready 21 blog post. Take a look at the looping gif below to see how to highlight text and create an annotated note using InsertLearning.

Imagine being able to direct your students' focus to another resource not originally linked to in the webpage. InsertLearning allows you to insert links to related resources. You can even embed YouTube videos directly into the webpage itself! Take a look at the looping gif below to see how to integrate a YouTube video into a blog post article.

Maybe I am burying the lede here, but InsertLearning's true potential comes through with the next two features. With InsertLearning you can collect formative assessment data directly from the webpage you are using to teach the content by inserting an open-ended or multiple choice question directly into the webpage! What's more, students can answer the question on the webpage without having to go to submit a Form or navigating back to Google Classroom! How wild is that?!

Remember, these elements inserted into the webpage will only be viewable to your students with the extension installed, so don't think that you are changing the actual code of the original webpage. Rather, you are creating a transformative resource that you can use to drive your instruction. Take a look at the looping gif below to see how easy it is to insert an open-ended question into a webpage.

InsertLearning's last feature is the most interesting, in my opinion. One of the ways we can encourage dialogue in an online environment is through discussion forums. InsertLearning allows you to insert a discussion forum into a webpage! Just like with the question feature, the discussion forum does not require a student to navigate anywhere else. They will be able to include their post directly from the webpage. Think about the power of this feature. Students can have their source in front of them as they think about and type out their response to the prompt. How cool is that?! The looping gif below shows just how easy it is to insert a discussion post.

What else?

Whether you are creating your own lessons or using one of the lessons another teacher created on the platform, you can blend instruction easily and effectively. Give it a try today!

Chris Justus
Las Vegas

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Computer Science in your Classroom: The Role of Gender

It’s probably not a surprise to you that females are still underrepresented in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is true in many of the STEM disciplines, but is particularly shocking in the area of computer science where the percentage of women obtaining degrees and entering the workforce has declined since the 1990’s and is continuing to drop (Landivar, 2013). In 1984, 37% of computer science majors in the U.S. were women and today only 18% are. That gender gap grows at the graduate level and in the workforce where women are dramatically underrepresented in engineering and computing. A recent national survey indicated that only 0.4% of teen girls plan to major in computer science.

This is concerning given that STEM fields are estimated to have grown three times faster than non-STEM occupations in the U.S. economy during the past ten years, it is estimated that by 2018 there will be over 200,000 unfilled advanced degree STEM jobs (Information Technology Industry Council, 2012). STEM fields offer employees a number of benefits including higher wages and lower unemployment.

Why is there a Gap?

Interestingly, research, indicates that there are little differences in the skills of men and women in educational technology, science and online learning between men and women (e.g. Hargittai & Shafer, 2006; National Center for Education Statistics), but they do differ significantly in their self-confidence and use with tools. Women report their skills as lower (even when they are higher than men’s), are less likely to explore technology in an unstructured setting, and are less likely to use available technology for programming or other powerful uses. Girls are also less likely to take the AP Computer Science exam or join optional Computer Science clubs.

You Can Help: Tips for your Classroom
·   Introduce female role models
·   Be a role model - Learn coding yourself! (https://nclab.com)
·   Teach computer programming in the classroom (Have you tried NCLab yet? It’s included for NR21 schools!)
·   Be aware that girls and female teachers might feel less confident in their ability (See this blog for more information: http://bit.ly/2AOXFy9)
·   Avoid making Computer Science optional – if it is, invite girls personally or open a girls only club
·   Pick activities that are hands-on and applied – research shows that girls like to code with a purpose in mind
·   Raise awareness of STEM occupations for girls
·   Check out these 40 Important STEM Resources for Women (http://bit.ly/2qNpEik)
·   Check Out this Video of a Girls’ Coding Club in Nevada - http://bit.ly/2CYneC5

~Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Formative Assessment Tools and Apps

Good teachers in every subject and grade level will adjust their teaching based on what their students know at each point. Valuable formative assessment holds all students accountable, engages everyone, removes the embarrassment of public hand raising, gives teachers real-time results that impact how and what they are teaching at that moment, and give students immediate feedback that impacts how they are learning.

When you are getting started with or refining formative assessment in your classroom, here are some things to think about:

  • Think about your learning cycle and determine where you would like to embed checks for understanding/formative assessment to provide you with real-time data that will allow you to adjust your instruction and provide personalized learning for individual students’ unique needs.
  • Determine in the formative assessment is formal or informal. Formal formative assessments are often documented and may or may not carry grade points (quizzes, papers, entrance slips, presentations, concept maps, written surveys, etc.) Informal formative assessments are less documented and often more performance-based (quick checks for understanding, questioning, discussions, observations, confidence indicators like thumbs up/thumbs down, interviews, etc.)
  • Formative assessments, whether formal or informal, are embedded regularly into every step of the learning process, not just administered at the end of the learning cycle/instructional period. 
  • In order to have a meaningful formative assessment, it should have three things. First, there should be proper alignment between the formative assessment and your standards (what you intend to measure. Next, there should be opportunities for “in-the-moment” feedback. Effective feedback should be relevant, include clear goals, address misconceptions, provide students with opportunities to advance, and include specific comments, not just a grade. Lastly, the formative assessment should provide opportunities for the student and the teacher to reflect on learning.
  • All formative assessments should inform teaching and learning, so when you are choosing a formative assessment tool or app you should be thinking about how the data is collected and what types of reports the teacher has access to and what feedback the students have access to.
  • The formative assessment tool you choose should provide immediate and specific feedback to students, so they can track their progress and take ownership of their learning
These are some of my favorite formative assessment tools to use in the classroom.

Teachers can create, send and grade formative/summative assessments with Google Forms. Some question types automatically award point based on correct answer (multiple choice, checkboxes, dropdown, and short answer.
When you use Google Form Quiz with Google Classroom you now have the ability to import grades from Google Form Quiz to Google Classroom!
-Creating a Google Form Quiz
-Import Grades from Google Form Quiz to Google Classroom


Socrative allows teachers to instantly connect with students as learning happens. You can quickly assess students with prepared activities or on-the-fly questions to get immediate insight into student understanding. Teachers can then view students responses and results in real-time from their teacher dashboard. These results can then be used to determine the best instructional approach for individual students or groups of students.
-Socrative Online Help Center

edpuzzle is a video platform for teachers and students. Teachers are able to make any video their lesson with really easy to use tools. With edpuzzle teachers are able to know if their students are watching the video, and even how many times per section they had to watch/rewatch as well as if they are understanding the content. Teachers can add questions with their voice or by text within the video. One of the best things about edpuzzle is that teachers can find and use existing videos from YouTube, Khan Academy, etc. or upload their own.
-edpuzzle Teacher Help Center
-edpuzzle Student Help Center

Padlet can be used by students and by teachers. Teachers can create an online post-it board that you can share with any student or teacher that you want. Just give them your unique Padlet link in order to access it. Padlet allows you to post ideas anonymously or with your name. Whoever has the Padlet board opened on their device can see what everyone is posting in real time. Padlet is easy to use and provides a great way for students to be able to post and share their ideas with one another.
-Padlet Help Center
-30 Creative Ways to Use Padlet in the Classroom

Classkick is an app (also available on Chromebooks, desktops, and laptops) for sharing assignments with students, monitoring their progress, and offering feedback. Each assignment consists of a series of "questions" which appear on the teacher's dashboard like individual slides.
-ClassKick Teacher Resources
-ClassKick Teacher Guide
-ClassKick Videos
-ClassKick Sample Assignments Library

Additional Resources:
-56 Different Ways to Gather Evidence of Student Achievement
-Formative Assessment Strategies
-The Definitive K-12 Guide to Formative Assessment
-What Are Formative Assessments and Why Should We Use Them?
-What is Formative Assessment?

Tearra K. Bobula
NR21 Professional Development Strategist
Carson City, NV

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Claps for Canva

Sometimes when I am out at schools, and I get to witness students creating products like infographics, menus, posters, or photo collages in their classroom I like to see what tool(s) they are using. One web tool that I've seen used to create the aforementioned products is Canva. I like it so much that I often use it myself for flyers to professional learning workshops I have held.

So, what is Canva? It is a free designing tool that makes creating items like flyers, ID cards, and invitations SIMPLE.  You can use the amazing templates and photographs already available in Canva or upload your own to make unique and creative creations.  
Here’s a list of some products that you can create on Canva.com
  • Programs
  • Labels
  • Coupons
  • Certificates
  • Tickets
  • Newsletters
  • Postcards
  • Letterheads
  • Calendars
  • Business cards
  • Brochures
Try it and see what you and your students can create.
Here are links to additional resources.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

G Suite Workhorse Series: Keep

Keep is an awesome productivity tool from Google. Because Keep integrates its reminders between Calendar and Inbox, I think this tool can be a game-changer. Keep also incorporates a powerful optical character recognition tool you can use to grab text from an image. 

First, take a look at how you can use Keep in your classroom by watching the embedded video. Then, complete the Task List below and set yourself up for Keep-success! Need a little extra help? Be sure to click on the help links for quick on-screen demos!

Task List

Task 1 — Install the Dualless screen splitting extension to Chrome (HELP!)

Task 2 — Open Keep in a new window. Using Dualless, split your screen so you have both this task list and Keep open in two side-by-side windows. (HELP!)

Task 3 — Create a new label in Keep titled Work. (HELP!)

Task 4 — Create a new note. Add your Work label to the note and change the color to blue. Add a reminder for tomorrow morning. Click Done. (HELP!)

Task 5 — Download this image to your Drive or computer. Create a new note and upload the image to it. Click on the  symbol then Grab image text. (HELP!)

Task 6 — Create a new list and type 2 or 3 sample tasks. Try adding a collaborator. (HELP!)

Chris Justus
Las Vegas
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