Stone_Ridge_logoWelcome back all! It feels so good to be back! The summer was great, but I was ready to to see our girls! It was nice meeting new teachers and checking in with returning teachers during the first part of August, but nothing beats the excitement and energy of students coming back after a long hot summer.

We’re into our fourth year of ed tech teacher blog postings and this year I hope to make this blog a much more useful and interesting place to visit. Whether you are a returning teacher or new to our incredible teaching community, I think you’ll find my blog to be a useful place to het a sense of what is happening in the world of ed tech integration, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll find this space to be a great resource for tools or strategies to more fully integrate your girls’ ThinkPads into your activities and lessons.

The absolute first place  you should go is to our very expansive EdTech Tools link. This link is organized and categorized so you can more easily find a website, app or program that will help you use technology to enhance your classroom activities.

Because we are always trying to make things more useful, please feel free to email me at if you have any suggestions about website organization or any ed tech tools you’d like for us to research and share with our teaching apple-304470_1280community.

Please, remember to click on the EdTech Tools link to see all of the great ed tech tools we’ve gathered for you to learn about and use.

Finally, have an incredible year!!!

PW-Wheel_only_V4.1This is clearly not my idea and my brain doesn’t organize this way (if at all). Allan Carrington, TeachThought PD Workshop Specialist, created this Apps and Pedagogy chart that is clearly not meant for teachers to utilize within the first two weeks of school, but it is a great tool to help you when you want to try something, but don’t know what app to use for your lesson or activity. Our ed tech tools page has dozens of these apps explained in video. I really don’t expect any educator to look at this as the year draws to a close, but I wanted to find a good place to put it lest I lose it. We’ll talk about this in August!!!!

Anyway, here’s a link on how to use this pedagogy wheel, in case you have a smidgen of time – link.

button-1015632_1920I know it’s hard to believe that the middle school technologist is “ordering” students to do this, but I think it’s necessary. Just as our girls do, I have a tendency to gravitate  to technology, even when there isn’t a need. This isn’t a problem that started only when computers and smartphones entered the scene. Myself, I used the refrigerator as my method of distraction. I remember, like a zombie, I would open up the fridge to see if anything new was in it since the last time I opened it 5 minutes earlier.

I’m not sure if it’s the human condition, but people seem to have something that do that takes up time or breaks up the monotony.

For spring break, if your daughter doesn’t have any work to do on their computers, please have them put it away until the day before break ends (so they can charge it for their first day back), and have them do what they did before these time-sucking machines entered into their lives.button-161555_1280

While they are without technology, ask them if they can remember a time when they didn’t use their phone, TV,
laptop for a solid half-day. Sadly, I’m still thinking. Oh, yes. Last Sunday morning I supported my son’s sports program by being the driver of a U-Haul that delivered over 500 bags of mulch throughout the Bethesda area. This break, I plan on taking a hike and following my son’s baseball team around Maryland. I hope your daughters will find something fun to do outdoors away from wifi! Have a great spring break!

Greetings all! Perhaps, Urvi Shah’s recent email regarding the 4 Tips for Managing Technology at Home brought you here. I hope you find a reason to regularly peruse my blog that can give you some tech tips, as well as give you in idea of the things we are doing with technology in our middle school classrooms. Fill in the box to the right if you’d like to subscribe.

Today, I’m attaching the deck to the Summer Laptop Orientation held introduce students and families to their Lenovo ThinkPad and show them the kinds of things we’d be doing in the classroom in the fall – Link

It’s an informative presentation and might be good to go over with your daughter, if you’re sure of what they should be doing on this school-owned device.

The last thing I’d like to share is I understand, through some students, that their ThinkPads can’t connect to their home printer. Please follow these instructions to try to get your printer connected:

  1. Attempt to install your home printer to your daughter’s laptop as you would any of your personal devices
  2. If the printer plugs in directly to the laptop, you should have success with connecting
  3. If your printer is wireless and prints through the wifi network in your home try to install
  4. If that isn’t successful:
    1. Write down the name of the printer and model on a slip of paper
    2. Write whether or not the printer will be connected directly (cable) or wifi
    3. Have your daughter bring her ThinkPad to the IT office, it’s now in the sunken garden near the gazebos
    4. Our IT staff will install the proper drivers for your printer
    5. When back at home, try to connect to the printer again

Again, thanks so much for visiting my middle school blog. I hope you find reasons to come back!smiley-163510_1280

Rick Alfonso

girl-388652_1920My apologies for outright stealing ideas from the movie, Dan in Real Life, and the Did you Know videos that have been airing for the past 15 years! Even though I’ve been watching some iteration of these videos since they came out, I still find the numbers and facts hard to believe. Click on the link above if you’ve forgotten or have not yet seen these videos.

As much as I know that every classroom/subject area teacher has a harder job than me, I do believe that we are trying to do the same thing with our girls – exposing them to new experiences, concepts or ideas, and then allowing them to make smart decisions with all that they’ve learned and experienced. Screenshot 2015-12-09 at 11.45.08 PM

The success of our girls when they become women in the world and workforce will be muted if we also don’t allow them to fail and try again in a positive atmosphere. We also need to make sure that we don’t hand them all of the answers. Ambiguity breeds creativity and often, better, more incredible solutions. Watch any of the Did You Know videos and ask yourself if we are – Preparing our girls to be surprised.


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I have the blessing of working with content area teachers that know what they’re doing. They work with me when they want to try something new or freshen up a stagnant lesson or activity. When we work together, using our own specific areas of expertise on an activity for students, you can tell when we’ve nailed the lesson – the room gets quiet and the girls start interacting with one another and don’t ask for much, if any, help from me! That happened today with the 5th grade Geography class.

Over the past two weeks, they have been using the SR virtual resources to gather information about central or south american countries. It’s a partner project, so the girls use google docs to collect and share information with their partners. Except for the directing them to the proper resources part, this work has been mostly independent or teacher-lead. Students were told that they would be creating a brochure using a template created in google slides. Here’s the thing – they did the hard work first – the data searching and collecting and organizing. It wasn’t until they had the bulk of this information that I introduced brochure creation, better known as the fun part. Had we introduced both of these activities at the same time, many students would have moved directly into the brochure part. It would have been hard to have them concentrate on the meat of the project – the research.


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With all of the information collected, organized and shared, I could now share the brochure template and have them get to work. And boy, did they get to work. I sat in my big comfy teacher chair waiting for one of the students to raise their hand and ask me for help. They asked for help at times, but not from me, burt from their peers that were sitting close by. you could see their fingers tapping and clicking to get their brochure going and it wasn’t until 20 minutes into the activity that I actually had to do some instructing. What they have created so far, has been quite amazing. Pertinent facts and interesting images and maps and flags, with citations, all put together in a brochure that they hadn’t touched until 20 minutes ago. Teaching is fun and so so rewarding!

from amazon website

from amazon website

So, the sales of this 7-inch tablet were on fire (ha) over the holiday season. These devices actually went for $35 through Christmas. The regular price is $50. Is this device worth all of the one-click ordering or will it go the way of Amazon’s failed attempt at creating an iPhone and Samsung S6 killer – the horribly received (and even worse functioning) Amazon Fire Phone?

As a person who has owned more 7-inch tablets than a human has a right to (I’m working on it, I’m working on it!), I have tried or owned everything from a Chinese $30 android tablet to the WAAAAAAAY too large iPad Pro. Although the new Kindle Fire is closer on the scale to the cheap 7-inch tablets, I will say that is is quite serviceable and would recommend it to anyone who is trying to figure what the fuss regarding tablets is all about. I now have had this device to use for over a month. I’ll lay out the six areas where tablets are judged – size, build, screen quality, computing speed, battery life, and value. I’ll use a 1-5 scale with 1 being the best and 5, not so much.

  • Size – 3 – this more about thickness and weight. It doesn’t feel svelte, but it’s comfortable in hand, with its rounded edges.
  • Build – 3 – the glass on the front seems pretty sturdy. I haven’t had it long enough to see if it’s scratch resistant. The back is a somewhat slippery plastic panel that sounds hollow when you thump it. It’ll do.
  • Screen Quality – 4 – I’m surprised how nice the screen is. I was expecting a washed out, dark, and pixelated experience, but matched up against one of my higher quality tablets, it held up pretty well. It is an IPS display with 1024 x 600 dimensions. It’s probably the worst at doing what Kindles were meant to do, being an e-reader.
  • Computing speed – 2 – This is not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination, but for a sub $50 tablet it manages to do things without wanting to throw it out the window.
  • Battery life – 5 – You could go for three or four days of medium use and only need to charge it at the end of that fourth day. It also maintains a pretty decent charge on stand by. I’ve tried out tablets before that never leave the house because the drain even when not being used and start fading within the first 1/2 hour use.
  • Value – 10 – Yeah, it’s off the scale, but if you are someone that has never tried a tablet out before and wants to experiment, I really think  you can’t go wrong with for your first tablet experience.

I forgot to mention it, but since Amazon is all about you buying stuff from them, this tablet is like an always-on advertisement. When you wake it from sleep, you see an ad for one thing or another. It will also push other ads during different parts of your tablet experience. If you’re used to browsing the web and ignoring the side advertisements, you won’t have a problem with that small nuisance. Finally, if you have Amazon Prime then this really is a no-brainer! Many movies, songs, games, books, and e-magazines are free. If you’re on the fence about this device, give it a go!

shield-1020318_1280Society and culture and be cruel partners. I don’t know for sure if only cavemen went out to hunt and only cavewomen stayed back and took care of things at home, but it sure seems like that was the only way I read it in text books or watched it in school movies. Is this a fact?

Today, all of the long standing customs and traditions in our society can still make something seem like a fact, when in essence, it’s just the acceptance of a stereotype that had some basis in the stone ages, but not today.

Today, my students watched this video, created by to explain why it was so important for girls to show comfort and expertise with STEAM-related projects and activities.

The video interviewed women working and leading in the computer and technology world sharing their experiences and challenges that face women entering the technology world. Ada Lovelace, Dame Steve Shirley, and Admiral Grace Hopper were introduced as women who were able to break down all of the stereotypes to become technology giants and influence the world to this day.

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I’m certain that Stone Ridge has already launched young women into the world knowing that they can be anything they want when they grow up. The introduction of coding, programming, 3D modeling, the creation of our first makerspace, into our curriculum will allow them to know that there are no boundaries for what they wish to do or conquer in this world. Go Gators!

Screenshot 2015-12-09 at 11.43.03 PMThis quote is on the Hour of Code website, hosted by

The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104. December 7-13.

It’s a very informative website with some great explanations and videos of the steam initiative, meant to increase the amount of coding and programming done in k-12 classrooms. Screenshot 2015-12-09 at 11.45.08 PM

Although it appears that every student would need a computer in order to be introduced to coding, it turns out that there are introductory coding courses that use tiles and cards to introduce students to the abstract concept of coding.

This year at Stone Ridge, every middle schooler has logged over 5 hours learning the basics of coding on their ThinkPads. It has been an informative couple of months as our girls used,, and to get a better understanding of this complex, and sometimes aggravating, program.

All of these websites are free and allow you to see what all of the excitement is about. If you’re not quite sure what coding is, click on any of the live links above to get a better understanding.

It’s a great exercise to look back three years ago to see that our integrated tech program was devoid of activities involving coding, programming, and 3D modeling and knowing that Stone Ridge has introduced this cross-curricularly across all divisions. STEAM is alive and well at SR!

Screenshot 2015-12-09 at 11.54.35 PMQUESTION – What do swimming, dancing, singing, reading voraciously, writing beautiful poems, playing basketball, and coding and 3D modeling all have in common?!?

ANSWER – Each of these disciplines have people that are very good at it AND others that are not good! I appreciate that Stone Ridge allows students to “try things on” and see if they are interested or passionate about any one of them.

As a teacher this year, it has been heart-warming watching many of our girls get excited about coding, programming, and 3D modeling and printing. I hope to never stop introducing new things to our MS Gators!


Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 11.01.44 AMWe are at the homestretch! Past Thanksgiving break and only 3 weeks until Christmas break. But, who’s counting?

I wanted to make sure you knew about the Ed Tech Team’s collection of instructional videos – link

Open it and bookmark it to make it easier to find. It’s taken over two years to finally create a space where we’ve collected videos on how to use some of the best-of-the-web online resources. If you miss one of my grade level tech sessions, you’ll find what you missed right here. We recently added an organizational bar across the top that lets you streamline your search of web tools. Enjoy!