Monthly Archives: January 2014

STEM@home: Technology

STEM@home is a series intended for parents and caregivers of our students at WUSD.  Feel free to pass on the links or print the articles that are appropriate to your students.

STEM at home color

Do you feel like computers are taking over and all the jobs in the future will require computer skills? Do you ever feel like your child knows computers better than you do? Let’s face it; they probably do. They are digital natives. Computers are a first language for them. For us, we learned a typewriter first. Or, maybe we learned on a word-processor. We remember the days when computers were for research papers and not for digital storytelling with video and music. But, since computers are a part of our students’ daily lives, we need to support our students.

How do I support my child?

Chances are, if you have a smartphone, you probably have an Angry Birds or Minecraft app. That’s fine. In fact, this year, our high school students used Angry Birds to design a life-sized trebuchet (type of catapult) to launch pumpkins across a field. STEM Club students will use Minecraft to design a dam that will replicate the Miner Flat Dam on the reservation. But, what about other apps? There are literally thousands. How is a parent to choose?

stem at home technology

The easiest way is to search using the words “best apps for education“. Many apps offer a freemium version. Freemium refers to apps that are free to download but require payment for special options. Think: Candy Crush Saga. You might have downloaded it for free but then were tempted to spend $1.99 to buy a candy bomb or more lives. Many math apps are freemiums. The beginner levels are free and then as you advance through the grades, they will charge you. I encourage you to try the free versions. You may discover that your child is not motivated by that app. It happens. They might not like the graphics or the “awards” they earn for passing levels. No loss. You didn’t pay for it anyway. But don’t stop there. Go online and search for another math app that they might like. If you find one that truly engages them and is educationally sound, you might want to spend the $3.00 to upgrade for the next 5 levels.

There are just as many (if not more) apps for English Language Arts. There are apps that have the child trace the letters. Some flash sight words on the screen. Many are e-readers. E-readers are books online. There are many different types of e-readers. Some are simply words on a page. This is similare to Kindle. Many have pictures. And even others have the option to have the page read to your child. Again, download a few and see which ones hold your child’s attention.

If you have an android phone or device, you can start your search here.

If you have an iPad or iPhone, you can start your search here.

For Math apps, click here.

For Science apps, click here.

For Reading apps, click here.

Let’s start a discussion. What are some of your favorite apps?


PARCC Sample Questions

Arizona is a part of the Race to the Top iniative and hence will be taking a new, online assessment next year. Our state will use the PARCC test. After years of multiple choice, “fill in the bubble” assessments, PARCC will seem like a whole new venture.

The standards are different (AzCCR), the format is different (online), and the way to answer is completely different! Although there is likely to be some multiple choice, there is more drag-and-drop, sliders, online calculators, etc.

Because the assessment is so novel, PARCC and ADE have released sample test questions. The sample questions are available in multiple formats.

The first format is “student version”. Students may click on the “assessments” to practice and to get a feel for the format and features, such as drag-and-drop. Teachers may wish to do this whole class, especially with a mimio. Teachers may also like to “assign” the assessment to students. Either way, allowing students to see the new assessment would help them get over the shock factor.

screenshot tabs

This picture shows a drag-and-drop question. The text on the left is longer than the screen size. The student may scroll using the slider in the middle. Note that the question is asking about Caribou, Moose, and Both. To reference the Moose passage, students need to click on the tab at the bottom.

screenshot comparing

This screenshot shows a task requiring a student to compare two texts. Again, you can see that the student can toggle back and forth between texts by using the tab at the bottom. The students can also access the rubric. The instructions state that students should take notes before selecting “Go on”.

screenshot typing

This is a screenshot of the very next page. For students familiar with typing online, this should not be earth-shattering. However, for students who rarely type, this might be intimidating.

screenshot highlight

Some students may be asked to highlight directly in the text. Notice the prompt on Part B of this question from 11th grade.

Another format is “teacher version”. The teacher version is much like the student version, however it has tabs on the top. When you initially open the assessment, you are defaulted to the “Question” tab. Teachers may then click on the “Rationale” tab and see the correct answers. The standards tab is self-explanatory. The most interesting tab is the “Metadata” tab. Here is an example from 3rd Grade ELA:

screenshot 3rd grade

You can see that questions are worth a variety of point values. In fact, on the Math assessments, students may score points for correct rationale, but incorrect answers.

How to View Your Sample Assessment

Go to

screenshot ade

Click on Standards and Assessments on the left side.

screenshot ade assessment

Click on Assessment on the right side.

screenshot ade sample items

Scroll down and click on the tab for Arizona Sample Items.

You will see a list of available sample assessments. ADE is creating more assessments to be updated as soon as they become available. Even if you do not see your grade level represented here, it would be beneficial to see what is required of other grades.

Troubleshooting Guide for Dell Latitude Tablets

The first phase of the tablet deployment is underway.  Many students have completed a required online technology orientation, in which they have learned the basic operations of the device, their responsibilities and digital citizenship.


Teachers have also received training and in class support.  Many have already started using the devices to support instruction.  During this second phase of deployment, we have learned a few lessons  have caused trouble for teachers and students. The Tech Ready Team has created a troubleshooting guide to help with the most common technology glitches and difficulties. You can download the Tablet Troubleshooting Solutions guide for your convenience.

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Teachers are not the only ones that are learning how find solutions to technology difficulties.  Students are also learning to become excellent problem solvers and eager to help each other by showing off their troubleshooting skills.

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Challenges and technical difficulties are inevitable, especially when using new technology, but providing teacher support and finding solutions is a critical factor for success.  A BIG thank you to all the WUSD teachers for their participation and dedication!


STEM@home is a series intended for parents and caregivers of our students at WUSD.  Feel free to pass on the links or print the articles that are appropriate to your students.

Is your student always asking questions? Why is the sky blue? How does our TV work? Where does our drinking water come from? As a parent, there are many different ways to respond. One way is to investigate the answers together in a way that encourages your student to think like a scientist.

STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is a term used by teachers to encompass lessons and projects which include these subjects. STEM units usually start with a problem.  The teacher guides the students through discovery and experimenting to find solutions.  STEM does not just happen at school. In fact, STEM can be very effective, engaging, and fun at home.

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the various aspects of STEM and how you can encourage your child at home.


Although there are many ways to explore science at home, TV is probably the easiest because it helps build background knowledge.  Background knowledge is a term that teachers use to refer to what students already know about a subject before the teacher begins to explain it in depth.  For instance, if a teacher were to do a lesson on quantum physics, students would need to know about algebra.

How do I help my child?

You can help your child build background knowledge in two ways.  One way is to flip through the channels until you find something sciency (I’m declaring that a new word).  Given cable and satellite services, there is bound to be a science program on at any given time.

Another way to help your child is to find specific programs.  What are your students interests?  Bugs?  Outer-space?  Mechanics?  The world of science is broken into three main specialties: Life, Earth, and Physical.  Life Science encompasses everything from human life, to animals, and even plant life.  Earth Science revolves around our planet and the universe.  Finally, Physical Science explains how and why things move.  If your child loves making her toy cars go down a ramp, chances are that she will enjoy shows like “How It’s Made” and “How Do They Do It”.

What science programs are on TV?

Many channels provide at least one science program.  Some channels, such as The Discovery Channel, provide more.  Some of the more common channels and their programs include:

That last channel probably through you for a loop.  Turner Classic Movies?  Science?  In the month of January, TCM is broadcasting “Science in the Movies” on Friday nights.  Click on the link to be directed to a page with the lineup of the movies and their showtimes.  For instance, last week the channel featured movies about Madam Curie.

So, tonight, pop some popcorn, curl up with a blanket, and learn about science with your child, at home.

ChronoZoom by Microsoft

Finally, an online timeline resource that is worth posting about. ChronoZoom is free, easy-to-use, and open source. While it looks a lot like Windows 8 (and a lot like Prezi) it is really much easier to use. After creating an account or just logging in with your Google account, you can start creating or adding to timelines that already exist. Below is a screenshot of a timeline in progress on the Earth and Solar System.

Additionally, the help guides that come with the site are actually…helpful. Thank you, Microsoft. And because the project is open-source, users have the options of adding their own timelines or modifying existing ones. If you are super hardcore, you can get into development.

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This is a great resource for class projects in all subjects – small group or individual. Start creating today!

There’s an app for that- Whiteriver Teacher Tool

With the goal of trying to make technology resources easier for teachers to access, I’ve created a web app that can be downloaded on your smartphone or tablet.

If you have access to a smartphone or tablet, simply open a browser and find your way to or scan the QR code below.


What’s in the app?

The app consists of 3 parts: Home, Resources, and Get Help.
The Home screen provides quick access to the WUSD Calendar, Your Classroom LMS, and Web Mail as well as an explanation of the purpose of the app.

home        About

On the Resources Screen you will find links to the tech ready team blog, the new STEM units that are currently being created, the curriculum maps,Resources as well as a link to the My Learning Plan website.  On the bottom of the Resources Screen you can swipe across to access the different WUSD Social Media:  WUSD Facebook, Tech Ready Facebook, and the Tech Dog Twitter Page.

Probably the most useful portion of the app is the Get Help page.  This page gives you the option to report a computer or network problem and turn in a ticket to the help desk via an online form.  In addition there is a form for requesting help with technology integration issues which I will receive.  At the bottom of the page is the link to the technology resources page on where you can find answers to your technology questions.


How do I get the app on my device?

It’s very simple to place this app on your device or tablet.  Simply navigate to the site mentioned above  Once you have the app open in your browser you can add this web app to the home screen of your device by finding the “Add to Home Screen” icon.  When you open this app directly from your home screen you will notice that it is no longer running inside a browser, but as a separate app.