Monday, September 17, 2018

Guest Post: The Best Tech for Your Back-to-School Shopping List

The Best Tech for Your Back-to-School Shopping List

It’s back-to-school time, and for many of you that means it’s time to refresh your gear. Whether you’re buying for yourself or your children, there are plenty of deals on tech out there for students. Check out these useful gadgets to help your semester go as smoothly as possible.

1. MacBook Air
The MacBook Air remains one of the most popular Apple laptops. The lightweight, slim design makes it perfect for slipping into a backpack, and the keyboard and trackpad are comfortable and responsive, so you can use it for long study sessions with no problem. Throw in the relatively low price (starting at $999) and Apple’s education deals, like a free pair of Beats headphones, and this laptop makes a ton of sense for both students and their parents looking to get a long-lasting computer for a good price.

As a side note, don’t forget to make sure your internet connection is fast enough to keep up with schoolwork demands and match your shiny new computer. You can check your download and upload speeds with a free online tool to make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to.

2. Vulcan Classic Backpack
The Vulcan Classic is the perfect bag for high school students that need to stay connected. This sturdy backpack can take a beating and keep on ticking, and it can also help your phone keep ticking too, thanks to a built-in USB charging port. You do have to supply your own power bank, but the built-in port allows you to keep the battery tucked away in the bag while you charge. Just plug your device in and you’re good to go. It comes in several colors, and at less than $50, the price is right too.

3. Rocketbook Everlast
If you’re used to handwriting your notes and don’t want to mess with Apple Pencils and iPads, you can try the Rocketbook. This unique notebook lets you handwrite your notes on actual paper with an actual pen. You can then scan them, upload them to various cloud storage services, and wipe the pages clean to start fresh. It works surprisingly well and offers a great bridge between analog and digital.

4. ViewSonic PA503S Projector
If you’re looking for a projector for your classroom on a budget, look no further than the ViewSonic PA503S. Having the right tech in your classroom is becoming a must, and a projector can help you share useful media with your students, like videos, websites, and apps. The ViewSonic boasts a commendable brightness and contrast for its price range ($299.99), and while it doesn’t support 1080p resolution, it will work fine for most classroom media needs.

Whether it’s freshman year and you’ve got nothing or you’re looking to outfit your classroom with useful tech that won’t break the budget, these gadgets can help start your next semester off on the right foot.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Free Guide to support Students' Social-Emotional Health

Social Emotional Learning and Well Being is very important to students and schools. Teachers and Administrators are starting to do more with this, but free resources are always nice. 

Aperture Education has created a free guide to help schools support Social Emotional learning and well being. 

You can download it here: 
  • 6 stages of a successful SEL implementation plan
  • How to meet the needs of all students with SEL and MTSS
  • 6 bite-size SEL activities to start today
  • 3 strategies to build relationships with students

See below for more info.

Aperture Education Releases 2018 Back to School Guide to Support Students’ Social-Emotional Health

Downloadable guide provides helpful articles, strategies and activities for school and district leaders, instructors and support staff

Charlotte N.C. (Aug. 29, 2018) — It takes a village to educate students. That’s why social-emotional learning company Aperture Education has created a free, downloadable back-to-school guide to help district and school leaders, teachers, counselors, and staff at out-of-school-time organizations implement and integrate SEL programs and activities in schools and classrooms this year. The 2018 Back to School Guide: Strategies for a Successful School Year provides articles, resources, strategies and activities that support the social-emotional health of students. The guide can be downloaded at:

Among the free resources:

· Resources for setting social and emotional goals for IEPs

· Examples of how SEL supports schools in resolving conflicts through restorative justice

· Tips for school and district leaders on implementing a district-wide SEL plan and increasing SEL buy-in through effective professional development

· Ideas to connect SEL to your local community

· Tips to connect in-school and out-of-school instruction with SEL

· Videos to help educators practice mindfulness and de-stress

· SEL activities to help students overcome back-to-school anxiety

“A strong social-emotional learning program helps create a healthy, productive school environment and there are many things that teachers and school or district leaders can do now to get the school year off to a strong start,” said Jessica Adamson, CEO of Aperture Education. “Going back to school can be stressful for both students and staff. We wanted to take “researching SEL strategies” off of their to-do lists. This guide provides some great tips and resources that they can use now, and all year long.”

The 2018 Back to School Guide is part of Aperture Education’s ongoing work to support educators, administrators and out-of-school-time providers in implementing social and emotional learning programs within their schools or programs. Aperture Education also provides a comprehensive SEL assessment and intervention system for schools and out-of-school-time providers.

About Aperture Education
Aperture Education specializes in social and emotional learning (SEL) solutions. Our flagship product, the DESSA Comprehensive SEL System, allows educators to measure, strengthen, and support social-emotional competence in youth in grades K-12. The DESSA System includes a suite of strength-based assessments, a universal screener that can be administered in less than a minute, and growth strategies and foundational practices to strengthen social and emotional competence. The DESSA System is lauded by researchers because it meets high standards for reliability and validity and is appreciated by educators for its ability to easily and quickly identify each student’s personal SEL strengths and provide practical supports that result in improved student outcomes. For more information, go to


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9-11-01 Seventeen Years later and still remembered

I was in EMS for 22 years before retiring due to a back injury. One of my most memorable experiences was responding to New York City as a Paramedic in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I will never forget that experience. What I saw and did are still with me, as is a type of asthma from breathing the dust. My Experience as a Paramedic on 9-11-01 

I still vividly remember where I was (at Sikorsky Aircraft) when it happened, responding down there as a paramedic, the sights, the smells, the people. I was at Ground Zero for the last part of my shift down there on 9/12. It was sobering to see the pile, knowing there were people in there. 

As the years have gone by, we have lost first responders to 9/11 related diseases, many struggle with PTSD or other medical issues. The current generation doesn't know this as anything but history. The worst part for many of us was not being able to save people and the many days and weeks hoping against all odds that we would find people alive. 

I went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in NYC in 2012. It was an amazing, heartbreaking experience. I recommend that every American go there and see it, remember those who were lost, and pray something like this never happens again.

9/11 still haunts me to this day, as it does most of us who responded. But we persevere and move on, not letting the terrorists win. 

As the years have gone by, I've noticed that people are not remembering this terrible event like they did the first few years after. I know that my EMS, Fire and Police colleagues all do, as do the brave men and women of our armed forces who fight every day against terrorism.

I've also noticed less being done in schools lately. Most of today's students weren't even born when 9/11 occurred. Please teach them about it (facts only please) and make sure they understand what it means.

This photo was taken on 9/10/07 showing a rainbow leading right to the WTC site and the Freedom Tower!

United We Stood, United We Stand

Today is a day Americans will never forget.
It is a day of remembrance, a day of reflection and a day to be proud.
It is a day we honor and remember the thousands of lives lost, the survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks on 9-11-2001.
It is a day we pay tribute to and reflect on the sacrifices of the public safety workers and the men and women in our military who serve us and protect us 365 days a year.
It is a day Americans can be proud of the way we came together following the attacks on 9-11.
United We Stood. United We Stand.

Here are some more resources about my experience on 9/11 and 9/11 in general:

My Experience as a Paramedic on 9-11-01

Remembering 9/11 (from 2009)

Great collection of sites about Osama bin Laden, terrorism, and the wars in the Middle East from Larry Ferlazzo.,29307,1921566_1932073,00.html


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

September is National Preparedness Month, so Be Prepared!

September is National Preparedness Month, which serves as a reminder that we all must take action to prepare, now and throughout the year, for the types of emergencies that could affect us where we live, work, and visit.

This year will focus on planning, with an overarching theme: Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.

Take time to learn lifesaving skills − such as CPR and first aid, check your insurance policies and coverage for the hazards you may face, such as flood, earthquakes, and tornados. Make sure to consider the costs associated with disasters and save for an emergency. Also, know how to take practical safety steps like shutting off water and gas.

The devastating hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 reminded the nation of the importance of preparing for disasters. Often, we will be the first ones in our communities to take action after a disaster strikes and before first responders arrive, so it is important to prepare in advance to help yourself and your community.
It is important to consider three scenarios when planning for an emergency: 1) an escape route and meeting point if everyone is in the house; 2) what to do during a school day; and 3) how to handle an emergency during the weekend, when family members might be scattered.
Although many people are familiar with the concept of developing a family plan for emergencies, most fail to take the time to sit down and actually come up with one. One great resource is the FEMA-sponsored website: Check out their kids section too:

Schools need to be prepared themselves, as well as teach their staff and students how to be prepared. (more info for schools below)

Emergency Management Institute Logo

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Emergency Management Insitute
The FEMA EMI offers free, online courses for anyone to take. The courses are well done and there are plenty of downloadable materials to help you. If you pass the test at the end, you even get a certificate.

Image result for emergency planning for schools

Here are a list of the courses that I think all educators should take: (I've taken these, and more)

IS-36 Multihazard Planning for Childcare
IS-100.c Introduction to the Incident Command System
IS-362.a Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools

Education Administrators should also be involved in community emergency planning because schools are on the top of the list as emergency shelters and field hospitals and the building administrators know their buildings.

Here is another great resource for schools from the US Dept of Ed - REMS - Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools. This site includes materials, resources and training (including free, on-site training) to help schools start assessing the safety, security, accessibility, and emergency preparedness of their  buildings and grounds.

Each household, business, and school should have an emergency plan, emergency kits and people trained in emergency preparedness and response.

I started my training in emergency preparedness while on my trail to Eagle ScoutEmergency Preparedness is a required merit badge and the Boy Scouts emphasize emergency preparedness among the scouts. I am a retired Paramedic, Special Operations Paramedic and FEMA trained in Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Management. I've responded to many disasters including 9/11 in NYC, hurricanes, blizzards, and mass casualty events and been incident command or staff at many of them.

Here are some of my favorite resources for learning about Emergency Preparedness. is the US Government's web site for information and resources on emergency preparedness and response. There are resources for making a plan, an emergency kit, and how to stay informed. Information is included for individuals and businesses.

The Boy Scouts of America, who train all their Scouts and Adults in Emergency Preparedness, has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to provide resources for the public on getting prepared. The site has planning resources, how to make an emergency kit, and other resources.

The American Red Cross website also has information for creating an emergency plan and how to prepare for different emergencies. They also sell emergency kits (they are very good and a decent price). You can always make your own using their lists though. There is a full section on preparing schools and students. The Preparedness Fast Facts page is an excellent, one stop resource.

CERT teams practice life saving skills

You can even join your local Community Emergency Response Team. These are teams of citizens that are specially trained to help out in major emergencies, sort of like the reserves. Find out more here. Here is a list of CERT's by State:

Emergency Preparedness is everyone's responsibility.  Share these resources with your students, colleagues, and family.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Welcome Back to School - Great Resources for Teachers

Welcome back to school! I hope everyone had a great summer and was able to relax and recharge. Most schools around here start next week, with new teachers starting this week.

The beginning of the year is always a little crazy for all teachers. Getting your room setup, implementing new ideas into your lesson plans, getting to know your students, and just settling back in to the routine can be busy and stressful. Remember to not over do it and take time for yourself.

Image result for back to school craziness

One thing I've done in the past that helped me is using a check list of everything I have to do when school starts, including setting up my room (computer, bulletin boards, etc), things I want to post in my room, lesson ideas and more in Evernote. I modify it each year, adding new things for the following year.

Image result for back to school checklist for teachers

Here are some more tips, resources, and help to get your school year started on a positive note, and keep it that way.

Advice to New College Graduates about to enter the Teaching profession

Summary of new teacher tips, urban schools issues, technology resources

Google for Educators - Google has a huge number of free resources for teachers and students. Check them all out (they're all free).

Microsoft Education Resources - resources for admin, IT and teachers

Evernote for Education Resources - the ultimate note taking, web clipping, lesson planning resource

Create a Personal Learning Network - a PLN is an excellent resource for help, advice, and sharing ideas.

Overview of some free technology that can help you be more organized and efficient.


List of What Makes a Good Teacher - created by students

Great resources for New Teachers - advice, support, and training


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