Monday, November 30, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Success!

One month and 30 blogposts later, we come to the end of November and step away from posting a blogpost everyday.

I have learned a lot on this journey. The main thing being that I am actually able to
Blog everyday. I've only been training people and encouraging people to do this for 10 years. I'm glad I took my own advice and challenged myself.

I will say that the viewership to my blog has been up (thank you readers, retweeters, and everyone in between) and I myself feel like I have found some great uses for my blog.

1. Weekly curated updates from the Tech Center. It's been fun sharing all the various projects kids have been working on when they come to the Tech Center

2. #TechTipTuesday will continue. Weekly ideas, apps, reminders, etc from the technosphere are great and fun to share.

3. It's amazing what one can do to share and connect just with their phone. Aside from embedding a YouTube video into one of my posts, EVERY blog post has been written/created on my phone.

Some ideas that I did not yet get to this month that I look forward to trying out in the future include, guest bloggers, picture a day, and I'd love to incorporate Podcasting into the mix as well.

Thanks for following me along on this journey, and as always: 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Flipboard

One of the best, and most underutilized applications of our time, in my humble opinion, is Flipboard.

For starters, it is a grey way to pull in your various interests into a streamlined mobile friendly platform.

Next, as well viewing your interests you can connect to nearly all of your favorite social media apps, to view the streams in one place, and post to them.

Lastly, one of the coolest a aspects of this app, simple, elegant, content curation in th form of your own (or multiple) digital magazines, accessibility the web, via the app, or on your preferred mobile browser.

If you've not downloaded it yet, go try it out. It's a great way to look at all your favorite things in one place.

Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine by Flipboard Inc.

Check out my Flipboard magazines:
Tech on the Side
Technically Chickens
Hixson Middle School 

Friday, November 27, 2015

#NaBloPoMo #FunAppFriday - Get all the Star Wars

For starters get yourself the ultimate Star Wars fan app, rich with fun Star Wars GIFS, emojis, trailers, and a count down for the release of Star Wars : The Force Awakens

Star Wars by Disney

If Han Solo was/is a favorite character of yours create your own Solo like character with this app. Enjoy the many worlds, play online with others as you take on odd jobs around the galaxy.

Star Wars™: Uprising by Kabam

A new one for me, this app just came out and it looks like you put together a team of classic characters to make the strongest team as you adventure your way the the Star Wars universe 

Star Wars™: Galaxy of Heroes by Electronic Arts

Download any or all of them today to check out this weekend, and may the force be with you. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Remember the iBook

On Monday I had a teacher ask if it would be possible to get a device that could word process but not connect to the internet.

The only devices that I could think of were our iBooks. The iBooks in our building were part of a 1:1 initiative that started more than 16 years ago. The building even piloted it with great success.

So we dusted a few off, plugged them in and handed them over to a tech enthusiastic learner and said "see if you can get it working and connected to the internet.

In less that a few minutes he had the computer booted, in a few more minutes he had it connected to the wifi. By midday the iBook was fully charged and able to last without the power cable.

Aside from the speed in which the learner had the computer operational, it was mighty impressive to see a computer more than 16 years old function at an on par pace with some of our other newer equipment.

Our tech enthusiast asked if he could use it for a day to compare it to the Chromebook. He will be testing this when we return from our Thanksgiving Break.

Stay tuned, and stay connected.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Live Streaming Announcements


In less than a few days we jumped from 16 views daily to 63 views LIVE! 

Today we streamed the announcements via the Periscope App (HixsonHub) also viewable at

This morning, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, we setup our location, started our stream 5 minutes prior to the announcements, announced 1 minute before we were starting via the intercom system and  we left the stream with 63 views!

Needless to say the crew was extremely happy about the success and changes. 

Continuing to learn  each day how to make it better for the audience, we collected this feedback:

1. Could we increase the volume
2. Some people still could not view the stream on their devices.

I shared the feed back with the producer and host and they immediately had solutions.

1.We have an iRig mic which we will try after the holiday break to boost volume.
2. The producer discovered a way to access the feed directly which worked on every device. After the live stream she began creating a screencast on how to access the stream if you are having difficulty. After  she created it she had another student watch and test it to see if it made sense and worked. Next step is sharing it with the staff.

On top of the success of our views several of the kids in the building have expressed how cool it is that the announcements are live. That interest sparks new energy and ideas on how to make them more engaging and informative.

As always, stay tuned and stay connected. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Exploring an idea

As a continuation from my  "Trying new things" post, this morning, our daily announcement crew wanted to try live streaming the announcements. I used the intercom system to let everyone know when the announcements would be starting, and how to access them. Then I let the kids try something new. 

They chose a location took their equipment and setup to stream live using  the Periscope app. They've been exploring it's use over the past few months trying to determine how it could best be used.

In the true spirit of failing forward, we learned lots from our live stream today.

1. The tool we were using (Periscope) was blocked on several computers but not all of them.

2. Many people did not know exactly what to do once they clicked the link.

3. There is a delay in the stream.


1. We emailed the staff to let them know the best tool to use to view it.

2. We sent out directions on what to click and how to view the announcements once they've clicked the link.

3. We will start our stream early to allow for the delay.

If you'd like to catch it tomorrow, we will be streaming live at 

On a personal note, after my "Trying something new" post the Superintendent of our district Dr. Sarah Riss reached out to me with suggestions and support of exploring other options for future viewing of our daily announcements in building. It is great to work in a district where the superintendent pays attention to every detail that makes up their district, and actively supports the learners passions and ideas. 

Stay tuned to future posts to follow the journey of "What could be" as the learners investigate new spaces, equipment and ideas that will bring the announcements to the school in new ways.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Stepping outside of your comfort zone

Today I made rolls. That's a big deal in my world. If I had a culinary title it would be Master Reheater.

It was some time ago when my wife, who is an amazing chef, was sick and asked me to make her soup. The task was daunting, stressful, and scary. She believed in me, that's what it took.

I made soup. Not a big deal to some but a huge deal to me. Often we need to keep in mind those little tasks we expect from our learners and just how big of a deal it might be for them to achieve it. Celebrate success, trying, failing, and trying again. You never know what that little bit of encouragement might encourage a person to do. 

Me I made rolls, what will you do outside of your comfort zone this week?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Finding your social media Trifecta

There is no shortage of Social Media Apps these days. So how do you determine which social media tools you should use to begin sharing, connecting, and collaborating?

Hopefully the following tips help you determine which three you should be using.

1. Determine your audiences. 
Often you will find that you have multiple audiences. Starting off by identifying whom they are and what is important to them will help you focus what you will need to be sharing and thusly which app(s) will be best for which audience, based on their needs and preferences

2. How often do you need to post?
Short answer: Volume is not as important as consistency. Set a schedule for each of your chosen apps (Monday I will
blog, Tuesday I will focus on Twitter, etc)

3. It's social media, stay social.
Which ever tools you choose to use, you need to remember that the apps are not just for sharing, they are designed for engagement, connecting with others, and communicating. For every tweet you post you should have at least 3 times as many replies to others. Engaging with your audience will help you to build followers and keep others well informed.

Now the hard part, which 3 should it be?

I say 3 because the world is not all on 1 platform, and each tool has its own unique group of people using it. So if you've worked through 1-3 and you are not sure which apps to use, ask the audiences what they like to use, and start there.

Last protip for you: Determine a unique hashtag to use and use it across all of your social media tools. This will make it easy for people to discover you and your content no matter what your handle is and what app you are using. 

Once you think you have your hashtag figured out, google it and see if it finds anything, look within each app for the same hashtag to make sure it is in fact not in use already.

Hope these tips help you stay connected with the world.

Friday, November 20, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Local App

Check out this app developed by a local St. Louis app developers.

Remix your photos in the style of several famous artists.

Pikazo by qarl

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Trying something new

Today I thought it was time to try something new.

Our students have produced a Daily Announcements show for about 3-4 years now. It was a transformation from over the intercom announcements from adults with some student cameos to what it is today:

This year has presented an issue though, this year the time that was built into the schedule previously (for announcements to be played) was taken away. 

In an effort to solve the missing time slot and need for announcements our principal decided to take some time while students are filtering into the class before their first hour to show them.

This adjustment never took. In years past  we would average 40-45 views of the announcements by the end of the day. This year we've averaged about 16 a day.

So today, I asked the producers of the announcements: "What solutions can you come up with, to ensure that kids are getting the information they need?"

Solution 1: Live stream the announcements and force projectors and computers to come on. 

Not quite feasible with our equipment, but I liked the thought process and discussion that brought these ideas up. The kids were sharing their experiences from visiting other schools and a few shared how t was done at their Elementary schools.

Solution 2: Announce via the intercom it's time to watch the announcements, as a reminder to put it on.

A great and easy idea to implement, I'll give it a try and see how it goes.

Solution 3: Use the various Social media tools we have to ensure that the information the kids need is getting to them.

A great back up in order to achieve the goal of informing the kids of important info that they need as well as connecting with them in the places they already use on a daily basis.

So we've 2 solutions we can implement starting tomorrow, and one we can investigate further, especially if the first two do not solve our problem.

I'm always impressed with their perseverance, determination, and always seeking solutions instead of wallowing in the uncontrollable.

Stay tuned and stay connected. Future posts to share the outcomes. In the mean time enjoy the show, and check out the shows from years past:


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - A transformation of learning

Today I had the honor to work with several colleagues from my building off campus at the CIC St. Louis building. Aside from allowing us to step out of our building and away from some of the many distractions one has when in the building, this space allowed us to get a glimpse of where our learners may work one day. It is a phenomenal space and great idea for us to step outside of our four walls and really take in how we might want to transform our spaces to better align to current working environments. However, this trip was not for considering our spaces, it was secondary to the main goal which was designing and transforming the learning opportunities we offer in our day.

We spent the day working through the design thinking process solving this question:

"How do we transform the learning opportunities in our building to align to a model that encourages the democratic process and learner passions, while strengthing our connections to our community and continue to meet the requirements of the state and district?"

The goals were multi faceted, in my opinion.
1. What can be done immediately to make changes to drive change around student choice and ideas
2. What can we begin doing to lay ground work for making bigger changes in the future
3. Develop Moonshot ideas that will help the above mentioned goals and question.

The work was focused around data collected from our students and staff. Small groups worked together with data in areas that they may not have been directly associated with. Seeing through these different lenses lent itself to a  deeper understanding of what each key stake holder in the building had to offer in regard to change.  It was encouraging and exciting to see the groups so ready for these changes. It was also a hard task to think so differently without knowing every detail to make things work successfully.

I feel like the group as a whole made HUGE progress to begin prototyping some of the ideas and common themes that were revealed today. I am looking forward to our next steps of moving forward with a transformation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - #TechTipTuesday - What's new Google+

Google announced some new changes to Google+ based on user input.

The changes put an emphasis on Google+ Communities, which was THE element that they added which drew interest and users to Google+.

The other emphasis is on Collections. A tool that allows users to curate posts around specific content in personal and shareable collections.

Check out the full article on the Official Google Blog: 

The updates should be rolling out to all platforms soon(an opt in option will be available on the web version). Whether you are a veteran of Google+ or brand new to it, get ready to navigate and explore the newly redesigned Google+.

Monday, November 16, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - “Tech On the Side” on Flipboard

Flip through Tech On the Side by TheTechSpec

If you've not ever seen a Flipboard magazine then check out this one, my professional online magazine.

A dash of Tech news,  for those who work in the educational field as well as those who are wanting to keep up to date on the technological events taking place in our world. 

More on Flipboard in future posts.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Tech Crunch

Short on time but you want to keep in the loop about all the important Technology news and updates that happen each day, then do I have the Podcast for you.

Check out the Crunch Report from Tech Crunch. A brief but robust podcast that'll be sure to keep you updated on all the interesting technology trends, releases, news and more.

Subscribe via your favorite podcast app

Saturday, November 14, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Saturday Comics

I've had many people ask me this year about which tool I use to make my avatar likeness on my blog posts.

The app I use is called Bitstrip, check out today. Create your avatar, choose you scene, write a caption or fill in a speech bubble and share!

Bitstrips by Bitstrips

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

#NaBloPoMo I'd like you to meet #WGSDChat

Every Thursday, +Don Eckert +Melissa Hellwig and myself host a Twitter chat designed to spark conversations across our district, we use the unique hashtag #WGSDChat.

If memory serves me this idea came up in a Google Hangout conversation between the three of us a little over a year ago. And the next day we started brainstorming outing, and by the end of the week we had discussed it with +John Simpson , our assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, who was very excited for us to mve forward with the discussion.

So every week we ask the WGSDChat group if they have suggestions for topics or questions they would like to share as well as emailing people directly to see if they are interested in designing the sessions. The topics are as varied as the ideas that flow from all corners of the district, encompassing all ages, topics, areas of interest, afterschool activities, etc.

It has blossomed into a robust weekly conversation within our district and has many active members from outside of our district, or as we like to call them "friends of Webster".

Check it out every Thursday at 7:00 at the #WGSDChat

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - iReporting and iProduction

Every week, a self selected group of Middle School learners give up 30 minutes to write, create, record, produce, edit and post our Weekly variety show.

This is part of our after school activity lineup. Over the years it has had many names, but for the past 3 years it has been two activities. Meeting on Tuesday is iReporting with Mrs. Gavin, and iProduction, meeting on Wednesday with Mr. Heisel (that's me)

The transformation has been amazing, each new class comes in with bright new fun ideas and a better idea of what is possible, thanks to their predecessors.

Manning the camera and telepromter

Brainstorming, writing, laughing, and having fun.
Editing the full show lineup is truly a mega job shared amongst 3-4 students who expressed interest in learning the full process.
Sometimes we like to attempt to distract the iReporters while they rehearse.
Mrs. Gavin and Mr. Heisel

Be sure to tune in every Friday, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel: HixsonTube

And if you would like to watch the transformation of the show check out our playlists!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - #TechTipTuesday Time to backup the data

It's nearly the middle of November, a perfect time to backup your work, photos, and other important files.

Pick your favorite back up storage solution and do it today.

Monday, November 9, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Headline "Chrome is here to stay" says Google

This past week there were many rumors flying about Chrome OS going away or merging with the Android OS.

To clarify, there was an article from the Wall Street Journal written that lead users to believe that the two operating systems would merge into one operating system to rule them all, shortly after there were many articles discussing what this meant for the future of Chromebooks, a widely adopted tool for schools, and loads of speculation about what would be or what would no longer be supported.

Promptly to respond, Google posted a blog entry titled "Chrome is here to stay" where they outline the their original goals for creating the Chrome OS and why they are hoping to do in the future.

So fear not, always double check your sources, and continue to enjoy Chrome OS on a Chromebook. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

#NaBloPoMo - Are there reruns on blog posts?

In yesterday's blog post I shared two podcasts some of our learners have produced and I thought I might share the back end of podcasting... then I realized that I did that already back in October,
so take a look, and start podcasting this week!

The short version of what you need in order to start podcasting, for free!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

#NaBloPoMO - Podcasts

Two Podcasts that I'd like to share with you this evening:

1. The Typical Middle Schooler - A newly created podcast from our GFA learners. They've one episode and I am certain that they, and I would appreciate any feedback you might have.

2. Hixson Game Central Podcast: This is a project that was started by a gaming and tech enthusiastic learner who wanted to make a website all about video games. Once the site was up and running he found that he had little to update, I asked him a few things about some video games and instantly I thought he had might have the knack for podcasting. So I introduced him to Audacity, gave him a Microphone, and now he is is on his second season.

I hope you enjoy the podcasts, soon I will share the tools and tricks behind the scenes to make it all come together.

If you are interested in these podcasts and other content directly from our learners, search on your favorite podcast app for HixsonHub ON AIR, you can also find us on iTunes, and SoundCloud

Friday, November 6, 2015

#NaBloPoMo : This Week at Hixson

2 days later

The collaboration of  2, 30 minute after-school sessions with our iReporters and iProduction Crew.
So proud and in awe of what they have been able to do this year. This is their 9th episode this season, and they are always coming up with new segments.

Hope you enjoy this episode and this post.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

#NaBloPoMo : Copy Machines

Sometimes you spend three days setting up copy machines. 

Not because you like copy machines, printing, or paper of any kind.

You do it because your colleagues need it done.

And although it is grueling, annoying, finicky work, you do it.

Often it goes unnoticed, or under appreciated, lucky for me, the majority of our staff understands and appreciates the work and time required to get it done.

There are, in fact, a few of them who really understand what I've given up for them in spending as much time and paying attention to the detail to make sure things are as seamless as possible for them.

That's been my 3 days. 

I'm ready for Friday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#NaBloPoMo : It's amazing what they can do in 45 minutes

Yesterday a group of Tech enthusiastic learners descended upon the Tech Center filled with ideas, the first idea they wanted to carry out was an interview and tour of our building led by one of our custodians. The tour's focus: the haunted side of our building. Armed with and iPad, iRig microphone and middle school energy they set out and live streamed to our HixsonHub periscope channel

While one interview was taking place the host of our daily announcements recorded, and edited the newly renovated show.

While interviewing, live streaming, recording and editing was happening, a few students from a 7th grade team came down to pick my brain about Raspberry Pi. Their team teachers were recently awarded one and the learners were given the opportunity to set it up and explore the endless options that a Raspberry Pi offers. Lucky for me, a raspberry pi novice, I had a learner in the room who owned and has explored in depth the many facets of Raspberry Pi ownership, building, design, coding, etc. He spent a good portion of that time sharing what he did with his, and they discussed what they really wanted to make their Raspberry Pi do.

Then the reporters returned, and began researching and discussed their next possible broadcast, and how many views they had of their live stream.

While they discussed their show, another learner was working on updating the student made and managed website:

All in 45 minutes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When #TechTipTuesday and #NaBloPoMo collide: Voice Typing

If you've not already discovered the wonders of voice to text typing then look no further than your very own Google Docs.

A relatively new feature, Google has added Voice Typing as an option built right into Google Docs.

To access it, simply click the "Tools" menu then choose "Voice Typing"

This tool is great for those who might find themselves faster at processing out loud and do not want to get lost fumbling around the keyboard.

Try it out today!

Monday, November 2, 2015

#NaBloPoMo : Blog Fuel

So I've begun this Marathon of daily blog posting for 30 days. We are all on to day 2.

Hopefully you've already pondered what will be fueling your daily blog posts. I started a list of ever growing ideas. 

Lucky for me there is rarely a dull day in the Tech Center so I figured it was about time to take my own advice (which I've been sharing with teachers for years now) and post pictures of the day to day going ons in our learner focused tech center.

Last week it was hopping:
Students worked on creating their weekly variety show. This is a collaboration of 2 after school clubs: iReporting (which meets on Tuesdays) and iProduction (which meets on Wednesdays.) More info on the clubs and collaboration in future posts.

A group of our Gifted Fine Arts learners (GFA) produced their first ever podcast, titled "The Typical Middle Schooler"
Check it out as part of the HixsonHub ON AIR podcast program lineup. 

A group of learners enthusiastic about technology who perform a plethora of technical work ranging from tech delivery to website development decided to live stream a comedy news show using the Periscope app.

Lastly another group of GFA students made this lovely art installation for us to honor Red Ribbon Week.

That sums up some of the more interesting points of last week, and I feel like it has given me even more to write about. 

Best of luck to all you Bloggers out there. 
If you have any questions or would like me to go into any more specific details on this post or future posts please leave me a comment.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

And so begins #NaBloPoMo

Today is the starting line for all of those who've determined that they'd like to run the National Blog Posting Month Marathon.

It starts as simply as 1 blog post every day for 30 days. The content is your choice, so long as you post each day. 

It is a great way to redirect ones focus to creating and sharing. The hashtag #NaBloPoMo lets your work be seen by a community of members all hoping to achieve the same goal.

So this will be my first submission this month, a little dull, not too terribly interesting, but hopefully informative enough to peek your curiosity enough that you too may decide to join the marathon. 

Post 1, 29 more to go.