Ryan James

Ryan James

"The alternative to good design is always bad design. There is no such thing as no design." -- Adam Judge, author 

For most teachers design is a representation of the tool that was used. As you walk the halls of your school you can see posters and flyers that were designed in Microsoft Word or Google Slides. Typically they contain some recognizable element like word art or tables to arrange text and images. Using a design tool like Spark Post gives you unlimited possibilities.

Good design attracts attention

Start with a Template

While it would be great to take a class in the principles and elements of design and spend hours fine-tuning our posters and flyers, using a template can be much quicker.   Without much training at all people can recognize good design over bad design. The first step is to pick a design that is appealing and would work for your message. Then, change the text and images.
Spark makes it easy to adjust color and theme. Check out this quick video on creating a flyer using a template and adjusting the elements. To download and share the design click on the download option in the upper right corner.


PNG and JPG work great for sharing on your website or through digital means.

PDF is excellent for printing or higher resolution uses.

Click start download to create the file.

How to Sign in to Adobe Spark

To use Spark go to spark.adobe.com and click sign in.  Select Log In with School Account. Put your email in the field and click continue. Then select Company or School Account. 

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 17:12

March 9, 2021 - Adobe Spark Page

“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status…” This quote is from Sir Ken Robinson, a leading proponent of creativity in the classroom. It’s important to empower students to move from content consumers to content creators. This can be done by allowing students to tell the story of their learning and share their knowledge. Adobe Spark is an approved and simple-to-use (and teach) creation tool that empowers students of all ages to create. 

Let them Create!

Skills for Today and Tomorrow

Presentation programs like Google Slides, Keynote,  and Powerpoint are excellent tools for students to build content. However, they are not meant to be stand-alone presentations. Instead, they are meant to augment a speaker's presentation with visual content.  However, students make an all-too-common mistake of placing too much text on every screen. 

Last week’s Tech Tip was on how to convert a presentation to a video and add a video recording using Spark Video. For building a direct presentation complete with images, video, and text that a user can peruse, check out Spark Page. A Spark Page is a website. Its advantage over other tools like Google Sites and Microsoft Sway is its attention to design. It is less business and more fun to create something that gives options to design what looks good as well as contain the relevant information. Check out this quick video on using Adobe Spark Page to see it in action. Take a look at this example.


Its single weakness is that you cannot share them out publicly. Adobe doesn’t have a method to keep the links within our domain (like Google Tools). So to share it via a link a student must first invite their teacher.

Once invited the user can then use the copy link option below to share it with those they have invited. Your students will love building content and sharing their learning with you through this amazing tool.

Congratulations to our grand prize winners of the Nearpod challenge! In the end, Emily Judkins won with the top score of 8711 points, and Jaylyn Keoppel won our Tweet it out challenge. We’d like to thank all those who participated in the challenge--keep reading these tips for more challenges and prizes! 

Creative Sparks 

Record a Presentation in Video

It’s not uncommon to have students create presentations. However, giving students time to present isn’t always possible. There are many tools that can be used to record a presentation, but most take time to learn. This is where Adobe Spark steps in. With Spark Video you can quickly and easily create a quick video complete with your own voice on each slide. Watch this quick video to see the process. Adobe Spark is available for all students k-12 and works on Chromebooks. Students can also create their own slides directly in Spark Video. The videos are intended to be short, think under 5 minutes. Try it with your students today.


Adobe Education Exchange

Wanting to learn more about using an Adobe Tool or would like to see lesson plans from other teachers? Adobe has a place that is full of great resources for teachers. You can search and filter by subject, education level,  or products used. Many of the lesson plans have presentations and resources along with complete lesson plans. All secondary students in the district have a Creative Cloud License and all elementary students have access to the Spark tools. 

We’d like to finish up our  Nearpod-themed month with a challenge! What we really want to see is you using Nearpod in the classroom. Tweet an image showing you using Nearpod in the classroom (careful with student info) and use this #WeberDTL to share it. 

Nearpod Game-Based Learning 

Time to Climb Learning Activity

Time to Climb is a highly interactive gamified activity, like Kahoot or Quizizz,  within Nearpod and complies with Student Data Privacy Laws (unlike those other two.) Students race to the top of the mountain against the clock by answering multiple choice questions. Time to Climb activities are great for bell ringers, learning checks, exit tickets and more. Plus, because it’s built within the Nearpod platform, it seamlessly integrates with the rest of your lesson. 

To get started, you can find a collection of skill-based practice Time to Climb lessons. All you have to do is download the lesson and launch it with your students. These lessons are quick activities to challenge your students in a fun, competitive,  and engaging way while strengthening understanding of ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies topics across grade levels. Here’s a quick intro video on how to get started.


Convert your Nearpod Quizzes

You can convert your existing quizzes into Time to Climb activities. Simply click to edit your lesson, select the quiz you’d like to convert, click “Convert to Time to Climb” at the top right-hand corner, and you’re all set! 

For this month we’ll be focusing on Nearpod. All teachers have full Nearpod licenses with tons of additional content available through their library. Nearpod is like the Swiss Army tool of EdTech. So many elements of teaching can be accomplished with Nearpod, yet it is familiar and simple to use. 

Nearpod Video Activity 

Add Interactivity to Any Video

Tools that can add an assessment or allow for reflection in a video clip have been around the EdTech world for a while. Think EdPuzzle, or TedEd, or the countless other tools that help make a video more like a lesson. Nearpod has the capabilities to do just that. Use Nearpod to create a video activity and add it to an existing lesson or use it as a stand-alone activity for students. Here’s a quick video on how to set up and add interactivity to a video. 

Using Nearpod with YouTube videos has a couple of added benefits. The trim tool helps to eliminate unnecessary and distracting content (smash that like button) to otherwise excellent videos on YouTube.  Another added bonus is eliminating the need for students to visit YouTube or get lost in the many suggested videos and distracting ads. Nearpod with YouTube creates a much more focused activity for all students and provides feedback on understanding within the video itself. Try creating a video for your students today.


Using Video as an Activity

Video is a powerful tool for sharing concepts, ideas, and information with students. Creating a video using your WeVideo account or the Adobe tools is a great skill to have! Here’s a quick tutorial on how to create a screencast using WeVideo. Crowdsourcing to find existing  videos on YouTube is another great way to discover information.  Advance search using filters can help to really find the best videos. 

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 15:48

February 9, 2021

For this month we’ll be focusing on Nearpod. All teachers have full Nearpod licenses with tons of additional content available through their library. Nearpod is like the Swiss Army tool of EdTech. So many elements of teaching can be accomplished with Nearpod, yet it is familiar and simple to use. 

Nearpod Library 

Using the Nearpod Library

There are so many lessons, videos, and activities available in the Nearpod library that you can easily add and customize in your own library. Start by searching out a topic in the Nearpod library and use the filters on the left to fine tune your search by subject and grade level. Here’s a quick video on how to find and add videos to “My Library.” Once you have something in your library you can edit and adjust the lesson as you’d like. Take a look at all the different interactive lessons, videos, and activities. Chances are you will find a few to use this week.

Add a Nearpod Lesson to Canvas


You can add a video or lesson to your Canvas course. Start by creating an assignment as you normally would. Add an assignment title, instructions, points, and due dates. In the Submission Type field select External Tool. Click on Find. Look for Nearpod in the list. 


Find the lesson you’d like and choose Student-Paced. (You can use Live Participation if you have the students go through it with you.)  Then hit Save.  You will see a URL in the link box. If you’d like the activity to load a new tab select the box. (This is highly recommended for Nearpod Lessons.)

A student will go into the assignment and their Name information will be loaded from Canvas. This video shows you the process and what it looks like to grade the activity.

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 15:23

February 2nd, 2021

For this month we’ll be focusing on Nearpod. All teachers have full Nearpod licenses with tons of additional content available through their library. Nearpod is like the Swiss Army tool of EdTech. So many elements of teaching can be accomplished with Nearpod, yet it is familiar and simple to use. 

Nearpod as a Quick Response 

Quick Launch for Everyday

One way to get your feet wet using Nearpod is to integrate what you are already doing in the classroom with some quick response activities. The Quick Launch tools in Nearpod are an excellent way to collect feedback from your students. You can use these to check previous knowledge at the beginning of class, do a temperature check in the middle of a lesson, or use it as an exit ticket before students leave. Really there’s no limit to when and how you can use them. Even if you don’t have a complete Nearpod lesson built you can create them with little preparation.  Watch this quick video to see an introduction to the Open-ended Question, Draw it, and Collaborate Board. This is totally something that you could use today in any lesson. 


Nearpod Lesson Library


You can quickly find full lessons in Nearpod for just about any topic, subject, or standard. Click on the Nearpod library and search for something you’d like to check out. These lessons can be added to your library, edited, and customized for your students’ needs. Use the filters to narrow down by subject and grade level to really find what you’re looking for. 

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 15:17

January 26, 2021

In this tip, we’d like to focus on one of our favorite tools, Google Jamboard. Its simplicity is what makes it so great--a blank slate that you can apply anything to. Brainstorming, planning, designing, expressing and drawing are just some of the ways we’ve seen students use this interactive whiteboard in their learning. 

Get Jamming with Jamboard 

Custom Backgrounds in Jamboard

One of the most challenging parts of using Jamboard has been the lack of layers or more specifically lockable layers. You would add an image for students to draw, annotate, or type on and they could accidentally move or delete the image. Now you can add a custom image to the background. Making it easier for students to do all those great things mentioned above but without the fear of shifting or deleting the original image. Watch this short video on how to add a custom background. 

Using Jamboard as an assignment in Canvas is easy to create. Since Jamboard is a part of the Google Suite (Workspace) it can be shared, saved, and managed with Google Drive. In this video, you can see how to create a shareable link and how students can create images to submit back into Canvas. Also, check out Dax Sederholm and Cathy Wall sharing some insights into Jamboard at our Learn Conference last summer.

Why Drawing is important?

The examples used previously have been similar to a worksheet that may be used in class. However, research shows that drawing has a much higher retention rate. Have students draw processes, data visualizations, meanings, or just express what they learned. One teacher had her students play Pictionary with the vocab words of the week. She would randomly assign a few words to each student to draw. Then she would show the pictures and students would guess which word it represented. As expected, the students retained much more of the vocabulary words, and they enjoyed the process.

Thursday, 29 April 2021 20:00

January 19, 2021

It’s a new semester! For some, it’s the start of a new course and for most, it’s a halfway point. In both situations, it’s a great time to try some new changes and expand your EdTech ability.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your EdTech coach in your building with any questions.

Second Semester Begins 

The New Rich Content Editor (RCE)

A rich content editor allows you to create content without writing directly in HTML and to add multiple types of media. Over the weekend, Canvas made their “New RCE” the default RCE. While all the same features and abilities still exist, the overall look is simplified. 

Here’s a quick video from ISM Blake Pope demonstrating how to use the New RCE. If you’d like a bit more information you can also watch this video. So fire up your creative juices and start adding content to all your pages, announcements, assignments, and anywhere else Canvas allows you to make your mark using the New RCE. If you’d like even more information you can read Canvas’ nifty write-up on using the tool as well.

Chrome Music Lab

Looking for a great activity to engage students while discussing musical elements such as tone, tempo, or voice? Interested in a new way to teach fractions using the timing of notes? Want to discuss the science of sound using waves, frequencies, and energy? Or compare music to the written word? There’s so much to be discovered with music. Google has a bunch of tools (they call them Experiments) that can be used to create and learn about music. These tools are simple and easy to pick up and can be used by all ages. Check them out and see where you might be able to add them in your instruction. For some great ideas on how to implement them in your classroom check out this blog post.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 17:38

January 12th 2021

We hope that you were able to use the information that we shared last week.  Our goal with this email is to share some information that we feel is particularly important at this time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your EdTech coach in your building with any questions.

Semester Transition Part 2 

Edit Assignment Dates

Migrating content from one course to another (or semester) can bring in assignments that need some dates changed or shifted. Editing dates for multiple assignments can be time consuming because opening each assignment to make the due date changes is a slow process. Thankfully, Canvas has a quick solution for adjusting dates for multiple assignments.

Here’s a quick video demonstrating how to use the Edit Assignment Dates feature on the Assignments page. You can batch edit or just shift the dates as needed. If you’d like more information you can read Canvas’ nifty write up on using the tool as well.

Google Workspace (GSuite) Templates

Using the Google Suite with students is a great way to give them a creative and fun way to express themselves and demonstrate their knowledge. Finding a template that is built and ready to go makes it even easier. Here are a few great sites to find free templates for teachers.

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