Work What You’ve Got!

Today’s Contributor: Sylvia Marroquin

I am Sylvia Marroquin, 18 years as a librarian and currently in my first year as the librarian at Burnet Middle School!

Here at Burnet Middle School, our teachers work that old axiom, Make the most with what you’ve got! As we all know, dependent on the campus, we all live a different technology integration reality. Burnet staff share 20 technology carts made up of roughly 25-30 devices. However, classroom teachers are not guaranteed to have a technology cart in their classroom every day. Added to this, our teachers are realizing, with more and more testing going online, opportunities lessen for technology availability when testing season comes around!

However, this not a Woe is we! story, but rather an It is what it is, so let’s rock what we’ve got! story. Here are ways that some creative teachers here at Burnet are working hard to innovate and integrate tech, including BLEND, with limited resources.

Mr. Taylor Butler is a 6th grade ELA teacher who utilizes Google Classroom as much as possible. His solution to inconsistent tech cart availability required some investments in ‘old school’ technology: flash drives and time spent on developing his very own OS.

“Over spring break, I created a custom Linux operating system designed specifically for my classroom needs that I am going to load onto flash drives. The flash drives will have persistent files that essentially turn them into small hard drives that can be used on any device with a USB port. What’s great about having that flexibility is that if my cart gets pulled or switched, I just have to pull out all of those flash drives and plug them into the new computers and everything resumes as normal with no need to download all of the apps and programs we use specifically for our class again.”

Highlights of Butler O.S.

– Support for literally every possible text file type (big deal for comic files)

– Students can message me directly and vice versa. They get a pop up that they have to acknowledge to continue using the computer

– I can screenshot, freeze, and take over their computer to get a student back on track

– Broadcast my screen directly to all screens

– Quick login links and shortcuts directly to my increasingly massive ebook library

– Writing support for tablets so that students can markup a pdf with a stylus

Mr. Lee is an 8th grade US History teacher who embraces every opportunity to incorporate technology and says, “There are a lot of great reasons for tech in my room. If I had full time technology, there would be a lot more I could do with it. With the limited use I have, these are the things I have done that I and the students really enjoyed learning with.”

  1. Creating presentations and projects. We use projects as a way to solidify knowledge and to let students teach other students. I was never a great artist on paper, but I can be very artistic on a computer. With technology, I show students they can create incredible things on computers. We have made slideshows describing things, commercials to persuade people to use things, and classroom posters where we blow an image up and then trace it onto a poster giving us a really nice product.
  2. Letting students move at their own pace. Every student is different and will grasp different things faster or slower. Students with technology learning at their pace through readings, videos, and writing allows me to help them in the classroom and focus on the students with the most needs. I have done this for a couple of units in my time here at Burnet and been quite successful. Sadly, because we don’t have 1:1, it is not something that can be sustained.
  3. Talk-Read-Talk-Write in BLEND. This is one of my all-time favorite lesson styles. It is great for anyone who is having trouble getting students to talk to each other. I have tried it without individual technology, but it works a lot better if they all have a computer. Students can post things to the page, read what others have written and talk about those things. The knowledge gained or strengthened through these lessons is pretty amazing.
  4. Games. Students think they are having fun. Really they are learning and getting stronger at social studies. I have created/am working on a game that makes students answer questions to move into new areas in an effort to take down the bad guy. So far in what I have made, they are trying to take down King George III!

Mr. Lee favors Gamestar Mechanic – for game creation – and Weebly, and he is really making it a point to dig into BLEND.

Mrs. Amy Russell is the CTE teacher enjoying teaching graphic and web design, as well as keyboarding. Her enthusiasm for teaching these applications is contagious to say the least, and students look forward to time in her class.

“We use the computers in my room for lots of awesome projects…

“In Web Design, students create personal websites or blogs focused on topics that interest them. Students have created music and video game review blogs, DIY craft blogs, and even beauty/fashion blogs dedicated to empowering young women. The students are eager to work on their sites and improve them because they’ve chosen topics and content that they care about.

“In Graphic Design, students combine their own creativity with new technical skills. For example, we’re using Inkscape to illustrate vectors, build personal logos, and create custom designs for screen printed t-shirts. Students are excited to learn these skills, not only because they’re challenging and fun, but they can also take these skills with them into future careers.”

Although we all admit that it is a bit of a balancing act on the part of Burnet staff, our teachers here really work to seize the moment and integrate technology into their day, so as to keep our students involved and engaged.


  1. It is so great to see how creative our teachers are using what they have. This can do attitude is so wonderful to hear about.

  2. Thank you for sharing how the teachers at Burnet are making the most with the technology that they have available to them. Looks like fantastic learning is happening there!

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