Author: robinstockmar

Red Ribbon: Spirit Week Take Over!

Red Ribbon: Spirit Week Take Over!

Our students this week are ramped up about Red Ribbon Week. We celebrate making school a safe place with educating students about being good citizens, and taking care of one another through compassion and encouragement. This shows with all the school spirit going on through out the week.

  • Monday – Crazy Hair Day
  • Tuesday – Twin Day
  • Wednesday – Pajama Day
  • Thursday – Decades Day
  • Friday – Wear Red Day
Device Vice: Causing Anxiety and the American Teen

Device Vice: Causing Anxiety and the American Teen

This is the first article in a series on how technology in education and every day life is affecting the mental health of American teens.

Imagine you are getting ready to eat dinner one night. Any night, whether it be in a family setting at home, at a favorite restaurant or just chilling by yourself on the couch watching Netfix, the one thing you must do before you start to eat is take off your pants. Huh? What does that have to do with teens or anyone for that matter and anxiety? Especially, if it is too cold for you to be comfortable with your pants off. Do you think this would create a feeling of anxiety for you, your family, your friends, and other people you know? Of course it would. It’s ridiculous, and no one would be that comfortable, except some weirdos, right? Now, put your phone down, unless you are reading this on your phone, and find out what it does have to do with using a tech device and teen anxiety.

The use of personal devices in schools across America have been the subject of debate for years from everything on how they can either help, hinder, or even motivate students to learn. Schools have implemented policies, procedures, plans and have hired experts to encompass all the issues that are associated with devices in education in order to ensure appropriate use and keep students safe. The technology standards that schools must cover embrace all these issues, and teach students how to be future experts in the field as well. Yet even with all that has been planned for and continues to evolve in the field, one area that has not been addressed in schools is how the use of devices themselves affect the mental health of young people in positive or negative ways.

Of course there is the subject of cyber-bullying that most schools are highly aware of, and have many rules and regulations in place to try to ensure it does not happen because of the proven negative affects it has had on teens all over the county, and even been a factor in teen suicide. Cyber-bullying is a result of how devices are used to provoke students through the means of communicating information form one person to another or a group in a negative way.  But what about the device itself?

The devices students use on a daily basis in and out of school continue to be a huge part of an average American teen’s life to the extent is is becoming rare to see a student not have one in their possession. There has been extensive research into how the rise of smartphones, the most popular device, has skyrocketed even in the past few years. According to eMarketer, an expert worldwide company in digital marketing, teen ownership is one of the fastest growing areas in the country.


The reality that almost all school age teens with have a personal smartphone in just a few years has to be a priority in the schools. Again, most schools will have the policies and procedures in place to ensure what is appropriate use for the academics and the community so that they are not compromised and the safety of the students is considered.

Now go back to the dinner, and think about the idea of taking off your pants. If you are like most Americans and own a smartphone, or even maybe a dinosaur flip-phone, do you put it away, or down for your meal, and not check it all during the meal? Answer honestly. Some families have policies, just like the schools, no phones at the table. Probably with the noble intention for the family to communicate in the old fashioned way of talking, arguing, or glaring in silence at each other before the invention of television, or mobile phones. Recent studies of how application software developers are using psychology itself to not only make apps more user friendly, and enjoyable, but also are using it to trigger additive traits in our brains so people will want to come back for more, or even not being able to go without checking the app itself. This is making it more and more difficult for people to put the phones down. This method of application development is known as “Brain Hacking”, and has been admitted to be used by developers in Silicon Valley associated with Google to try and get people hooked to their devices.

This development of application designed to get people hooked into the app, which in turn makes it more and more difficult to put the device down without checking it constantly for affirming self worth, is believed to create a sense of anxiety. Teens are especially vulnerable to the need to check their device because of the apps being directly developed for the highest growing population of cell phone use. In turn, if applications are addictive, the only way to view them conveniently for most teens in on their phone, and this can create a dangerous codependency on the device to deliver the information. This is like a desperate drug addict needing to have a dealer ready and willing to deliver when their addictions take over. One of the first natural mental reactions to not fulfilling an addiction is of course anxiety.

Not all teens or people have the addictive personal trait, however, just the tiny bit of need to feel safe and comfortable can create anxiety.  The teen brain does not have the copying mechanisms yet built in to fight being psychologically manipulated to deal with the need this can create, and anxiety easily develops. There are of course other factors involved in the amount of anxiety a teen might face, but there is no argument that teenage anxiety is on the rise, and that mental illness itself in teens is quick to follow.

Does the rising use of smartphones and teen anxiety coincide? And if so, does requiring teens to put their phones away during meals, and in the classroom add to the anxiety? Further research will have to be done, but signs are pointing to a correlation. If the correlation does prove to be a factor, then consider this, what will be the outcome for the classroom, or dinner time? What percentage of teens will endure the anxiety that causes mental illness before society changes its preferred norm for cellphone and device use among that age group all together in certain settings such as school?

Yet there is a bright side, the development of educational apps themselves might give more leeway to using devices in the classroom, and if little Johnnie or Suzy check there Snapchat  while they are learning to relieve their “Brian Hacked” induced anxiety, does it matter? Ultimately, what will not only help students learn trough their personal device, and feel comfortable is what the goal should be with technology in education. Who cares if it might happen at the table now and then, and why not make yourself comfortable, you might want to relax a little, so maybe even pants optional.


Robin L. Stockmar

Technology Integration Specialist





Mixed Reality, Possible Genie in a Bottle for Students with Special Needs

Mixed Reality, Possible Genie in a Bottle for Students with Special Needs

You probably are familiar with virtual reality, and maybe even augmented reality, but have you heard of mixed reality? First, you might need a reality check; a little explanation. Virtual reality (VR) is second nature to most these days. Almost everyone, no matter how young or old has been exposed to some kind of video game where you become part of a different interactive world that allows you to either build, plan, play, or maybe even interact with others online, or through messaging. It’s nothing new, and has been the bane of many to spend endless hours water crops on FramVille, or collectively working your way through history conquering on Forge of Empires, with bloodshot eyes realizing its 3:00 AM. Augmented reality (AR) is a little newer to most dominating the news this past Summer with the pop culture take over of Pokemon Go! Meaning, a way that you interact with the real world around you with computer generated objects integrated into it, overlaying, so to speak, to what you know is real around it.

Mixed reality is exactly what it sounds like, the merging of the two. How does it work, and what will it do for Education, you ask? “So, why don’t you just ruminate, Whilst I illuminate the possibilities!”-Genie of the Lamp. Mixed reality is when the latest in VR , and AR are fused through the newest tech gear, via Microsoft Hololens, and now Google getting into the game with their purchase of Eyefluence, wireless headsets.

The way it works is taking a once wireless headset tethered to a computer or other device now completely free and programed on it’s own, with client specific needs to fit a situation they are applying the VR and AR to, essentially, the computer is in the headset. For example, if the person using the device is creating a full scale avatar monster that they will interact with in a virtual reality game, they can now do it with motion sense from body movements, via eye interaction.  The headset with the technology in place can use eye movement in relation to the body and the actual environment around them, to make the monster a reality for the user. The monster can essentially be directed like an actor or maybe even more like an imaginary friend as a hologram to the headset user when programed correctly. Sort of like a genie in a bottle to the programmer of the headset, as they can interact with it as they wish, with motion, sound and voice commands.


Now imagine a student that has special needs, maybe specifically for students with emotional needs, or fall on the autistic scale. Often these students have sensory issues that require special comfort items, or environmental changes for them to feel save at school. With the use of mixed reality through a device programed to the specific needs of the child, they could possibly have an easier way to cope in a regular classroom setting without having to change the classroom, or have that student in a self contained one. Over time with the headsets becoming more affordable, conceivably a way to be a lot less obtrusive than building special classrooms and schools for children that could benefit from the technology, mixed reality could be a possible boon for the field of public education in finding solutions for the growing numbers of students with these needs.

Who knows, with the evolving world of mixed reality, soon every student might have their own personal curriculum structured to them without the need to do more than simply program it into their headset. Literally, a personal genie from the bottle, or headset, for that matter, to help children learn the skills and knowledge to succeed in school.


Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

Let Teaching Guide the Technology

Let Teaching Guide the Technology

Google, Galileo, Edmodo, Renaissance Learning, Synergy, Discovery Education Online, the list goes on and on….and on and on. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated these days as an educator.

As we embrace the ever-evolving world of technology, and try to keep in mind our students that need guided practice, whole group, small group, and one-on-one differentiated instruction, not to mention the state and benchmark testing, phew… are you tired yet? How do we make sense of all the technology available, and remember that as an educator,  we need to keep the process of learning and growing at the forefront of it all?

We do so by letting the teaching guide the technology, not the technology guide the teaching.

We have all had the experience of being rounded up, fired up and branded with a great new program that the district is adopting, and has all the fun bells and whistles that get the kids pumped about learning. Then we are let loose to go back to our school and classrooms and have to try to remember how to enter our students, download the dohickeys, assign the dinglehoppers, and interpret the bubbles so we can reassign the dohickeys that the kids didn’t get the first time they attempted the program. Oh, yeah, and try to figure out why are using the iPads instead of the Chromebooks that were recommended?

Is it because we couldn’t see the icons, or is it because the district got a deal on them, and a board member hates Chromebooks, and I got stuck with them?

Sound familiar?

So how do we stop the techno-nonsense, (using technology without real purpose) and keep the teaching at the front of the process? Here are some simple rules that can eliminate more than half the headaches and mistakes districts make when implementing the technology.

Do a Technology Use Assessment: Find out what technology is being used on your campus and categorize it with How, Why and What frequency it is being used. Don’t let a bunch of dust-collecting devices be your technology implementation.

Survey your Staff: Find out how the educators are using technology, what they like, do not like, and what is working well.

Collaborate: Allow your staff to work together on sharing, and what suggestions they have that would help them move forward with their teaching into the digital world. Have them train each other. Nothing better than learning from someone you trust than a stranger.

Plan, Prepare, Phase: Have a technology plan, one that your team or committee comes up with, that can be done within a year or two, and phase in small doses of Professional Development, as you phase out the old. Remembering too much too fast will burn bridges instead of building them.

Continuous Feedback: Be open to feedback good or bad so that you can monitor and adjust to the needs of the educators. The old attitude of “if it’s adopted by the District, it is now Gospel” only causes frustration when something isn’t working for your staff.

Just remember, like everything else in education, it is a process, never meant to be permanent. The more willing you are to be fluid and learn as you go from the staff you trust, then the teaching will guide the technology in a way you can trust that the best choices and practices will be applied.


Robin Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

Google Hangouts, your classroom clothesline to the world

This article is the sixth in my weekly series for fundamental Google Training: Unit 6 

When was the last time you took down fresh clean laundry from a clothesline that had been dingy and stained when you started, to being warmed by the sun into snuggly bright clean and refreshed sense fulfilling fabric? Imagine if you had a clothesline out your classroom window that connected to other classrooms

Fresh white laundry hang on the clothesline with colorful pegs.and places where you could hang your students out on a zip line to exchange information and meet experts in the field you were studying when they seem dingy and disinterested. They could hang out on this line and chat for a while, face to face, then return with all kinds of nifty facts and ideas to use in class, refreshed and renewed, just like that laundry. That is the idea behind Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts is more than just a way to chat with someone virtually, it is a secure way for you to set up a time and space for a group of students to experience a live chat with either an expert in a field or another group of students that can share information. Hangouts have the option of just text chatting, calling someone, or doing a video chat. Sounds nice, but how do you make it happen?

Get started by going to Google Hangouts. 

  1. Sign in with you Gmail account.
  2. You can choose an option, video call, phone call or message, and invite people.
  3. Or on the menu, the “Hangouts On Air.” is available.

The best way to understand how the system works is to play with it, explore the options and ask a few friends in your Gmail contacts to explore with you. There are a lot of options, so the more you get your friends to join in the more you will be able to enjoy creating connecting spaces online.

How to find experts for your students.

“Hangouts On Air.” is one of the fastest ways to find people in the Google community that are affiliated with professional groups that may interest your students. Since they are already a part of the Google community in Google Plus, inviting them is easy. You can search by area of a subject, then narrow down after clicking on the subject. Usually finding someone that has contact information, and sending them an email to ask if they would like to participate in a hangout.

Or you can create your own Hangout On Air, and wait for other interested people to invite your class group to chat with. You can find people live online as well when you scroll through the list below your own Hangout On Air and invite yourself to their live stream.

Just think, your students can start a hangout, feeling bogged down, soggy and unsure of the subject they might be studying, and with help from the other group on the line, come back fresh, light and renewed. There is nothing like taking down that freshly dried clean aired out laundry to tuck neatly away for future use. Just like there is nothing like having your students feel fresh and have a renewed affinity for something they learned by hanging out with an expert that gave them that perspective.


Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist


Google Calendar: Sync and Swim

This article is the fourth in my weekly series for fundamental Google Training: Unit 5


Swimming through the waters of today’s busy multi-tasking lifestyle can not only be stressful but also mindboggling. Don’t you wish there was a way to ease that stress, and keep you sailing smoothly with staying on top of your tasks at your fingertips? Now you can with the use of your smartphone and syncing  with Google Calendar.

Using a calendar may seem like a no-brainer, but just using a calendar is not the same as utilizing it. What is the difference? Having a desk calendar, pocket calendar or on your computer can be handy, yet imagine if your calendar went with you everywhere, when you are away from your desk, home or work and be reminded of important events and remind other people as well. This is the essence of Google Calendar, and why the simple step of syncing it to your smartphone can make you that much more organized, aware and simplify things for you. You can utilize it for reminding you of your daily tasks without forgetting to check it before you go.

If you are not already using  Google Calendar, it is easy to set one up through your Gmail account by pulling up you apps. Here you will see the app for Google Calendar:download (1)

The easiest way to get started is to watch a Google Calendar tutorial. Getting it set up will be the most time you spend, and once you have it, voila, you will be able to add, delete, share and make changes with a click, and stay on top of tasks. You will even be able to invite people to events that you create. Now wouldn’t it be convenient to take that calendar with you everywhere you go?

Sync it in two simple steps for either an Android or iPhone:

  1. Go to the Google Play or Apple App Store. Search and download the Google Calendar App. (As seen above)
  2. Open the app, and sign in with your Gmail account. Now you have your calendar everywhere go.

Next, try setting a reminder for events. Your phone will buzz you for whatever time you set before that event, and keep you on time for all your next important meeting and appointments. Who ever thought that syncing would one day be the way to help you swim along in your life, easing the stress, and keeping you more organized than ever. Thanks to Google Calendar, even on the choppiest of days you will not forget the tasks at hand helping get you through whatever storm life presents you.


Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist


Dealing with Student Death as an Educator

As with any occupation, there is the good, the bad and the ugly. In teaching, the ugly undoubtedly has to be dealing with student death. If you have been or plan to be in the field for the long hall, then this is a subject you will have to at sometimes deal with.



The first thing to know is that every time is is different, and depending on the situation a very different reaction by staff, students, and the community. A newer student that passes away over Fall Break that may not know many people can cause a much smaller ripple than one that is the star football player on his way to Westpoint that has five generations of his family in town, but as an educator, you need to have the same type of plan in place. Even if only a few or the entire town is grieving, you don’t want to be considered less compassionate be anyone.

There are some keys to making sure you handle it not only professionally, but with grace and not to further upset your charges. Here are the six must dos I have learned from experience:


  1. Get the information out as quickly and as accurately as possible. Whatever the protocol maybe, once you have been alerted by either the family or authorities, you need to get the information out to your staff as quickly and as accurately as possible, even if it is in the middle of the day, or night. In the world of social media, don’t wait and think it is insensitive to send out a notice. If you hear from the family that there has been a death, but they do not want you to release details, just state the basic information, and wait to honor the details when that happens. If you wait, rumors will swirl, and this can cause a whole new panic and sense of hysteria.


  1. Have professional support waiting in the wings ASAP. As soon as you hear the information and have to author that awful email, get a professional staff together that can support the be grieved. If you have school counselors, have a designated spot for students to go, like the library or a conference room to talk. If you do not have a school counselor, get one in the community you know or even a member of a church that deals with family death that can help. Students and staff will need a place to go as the teachers might be grieving as well, or still need to teach and should not be expected to counsel.


  1. Have a designated spot for expressing grief. Provide a writing wall, card signing, or ribbon tying. Depending on the age of the student, you need to have a place where classmates can reflect on their feelings without disrupting the daily processes as much as possible. A large piece of butcher paper on a table in the lobby with markers can be a community card signing or a fence out front with a basket of ribbons for each student to tie can be appropriate for small children and parents that want to show support. Something that can be included in the normal flow of traffic but shows support will allow the process to be smoother and healthy for the community.


  1. Have a form of a memorial at the school. If you do not believe it is your place to do so, it is. Your school will need to say goodbye to a member of the school family, and unless the biological family does not want you to, you need to have a service at a designated time before or after school. Ask the family for permission, and invite them to come as the guests of honor. A small flag raising in the am, or a balloon release after school depending on the family wishes are appropriate examples. Have some words prepared with input from teachers and a few close students. Remember, this is the school saying goodbye, not the family ceremony, ask for permission to have the ceremony, but then do the planning and the speaking.


  1. Gather the student(s’) school artifacts. One of the hardest things that the family will have to do is come pick up the child’s personal items. Within 24 hours, have the teacher(s) gather any items from the student including student work and personal effects. DO NOT place these items in a trash bag, and have the secretary hand it to the parents in the front office. As the school leader, have the items in boxes available in your office, and invite the family to come pick them up when they are comfortable. If the family informs you that they do not want the items, just let them know they are available if and when they are comfortable, don’t throw them away or donate them, even if the family, at first, asks you to. Give them time to grieve and wait it out. Someone in the family will want the items.


  1. If there is a public service, GO!. Kid funerals and memorials are no doubt the hardest thing to attend in life, but if you are the school administrator where that child attended school, you need to go. Even if this interferes with something already planned, you need to attend not only to show your support to the family but to your grieving staff and student body. Nothing is more shameful to the rest of your school community to not show up to the service. This is a guaranteed way to lose a ton of respect if you do not go, even if the family does not notice you, or see you at the service, people from the community will.


All in all, tragically losing a student is an unfortunate part of the job as a school administrator. If you do not think that you are cut out to deal with a child dying, and the responsibility that follows, then being a school administrator is not the occupation for you, and if you think you are, I sure hope yo never have to deal with it.

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist


Planning a Museum field trip? There is an app for that.

Planning a Museum field trip? There is an app for that.

The mere mention of Valentine’s Day at school can make teachers’ blood boil, and not in the way of love, but in the way of anticipating the mental, emotional and physical mess it can cause in their class among students. And after the sugar-induced heart day of horror for the teacher is over, it usually marks a milestone for them in the school year when it comes to planning. It is the time of year you really start to think about your end of the year strategies, goals and of course, that class field trip you will be taking in the Spring or early Summer. Year after year either doing the same old thing or trying to come up with one that would be different and better, either way, it can be stressful to plan. Don’t you wish there was an app for that, but, wait there is!

Introducing museumgo. An app that helps you see all the museums in your city with hours of operation and a link to the museum website. Doing the same old same old can get boring and even outdated, so coming up with a new exciting place to take the kiddies can be a challenge if you do not know where to start. With museumgo, the app has a large selection of every museum you probably did not know existed or would think of.


In the Phoenix, Arizona area alone the app lists 62 museums that you could peruse through to choose from. From the obvious Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the popular Arizona Science Center to some more unknown gems such as The Hall of Flame, discovering all about firefighting history and fire science all over the world, including the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes or The River of Time Museum that exhibits the influence and importance of the Lower Verde River in the development and sustainability in Arizona.


The River of Time Museum Exhibit


After cleaning up the candy wrappers and discarded pun covered cutesie Valentine’s cards that took over your classroom for the afternoon, take a minute to make your field trip planning easy and accessible by checking out museumgo. Figuring out where to go is always the hardest part, and with museumgo that is a snap, now if only there was an app for eliminating any unforeseen Valentine’s Day student meltdown….hmmmmmm.


Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist