Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Texting School?

I had a conversation with my 2nd grade daughter that went like this on Sunday: 
Rylee:  "Mom, when will I get to go to texting school?"
Me:  "Texting school? What do you mean?" (Bewildered)
Rylee:  "When will I get to text in school?" (She asked me seriously.)

I wasn't really sure how to answer that question.  Rylee has her own devices and likes to text people and it has been a good way for her to work on her spelling.  I worry about her not being engaged enough at school because she often doesn't complete her work and I will often find worksheets stuffed in the back of her desk as I go in to see what missing work she needs to turn in.  She only gets to use computers once a week during her school week and that is about the extent her of technology use during the day.  The entire second grade class just completed a project that was labeled the The Great Brain Report.  Rylee's report was about how ice cream was made and if it was nutritious or not.  She had to write a two page report, create a project, and then share it with the class.  There was a celebration at the end of last week where family and friends were invited to come and observe the projects and celebrate with the students.  The list of ideas for projects that were sent home did not include anything technology driven.  Rylee loves to use her iPad to take pictures and videos.  She decided that she wanted to create her project using her iPad.  So she created an iMovie trailer that showed how ice cream is created.  She did her own videoing and added her own text.  She was very "engaged" with her project and actually enjoyed creating it and learned a lot.  Learning became fun!!! Why aren't teachers suggesting these types of ideas for their students to create in the classroom? I have been thinking about Rylee's question, "When will I get to go to texting school?"  I sure hope that she doesn't have to wait until middle school before she can use a device as part of her learning.

Ice Cream: It's Delicious and Nutritious

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

To Chat or Not to Chat? That is the Google Drive Question.

Google Drive and Google Apps provide a plethora of collaborative tools for teachers to use with students, but one common questions comes up as soon as students become proficient with these tools: can we turn off the chat feature?

The answer is "Yes", but before we do that, let's think about a few things.

First of all, students have been passing notes in class since the beginning of time, but now we have enabled an online tool that allows them to virtually pass notes all the time, to students on the other side of the classroom, perhaps on the other side of the school.  In fact, the Google Docs chat feature allows people on the other side of the world to "pass notes" online.

The issue really isn't whether or not this tool is appropriate for an educational environment, but whether or not we are actively teaching our students how to use it appropriately.  If we turn off the chat feature, we are turning off this opportunity.  We are turning off the opportunity for our students to learn proper digital citizenship and etiquette - behaviors they MUST know to enter today's workforce.
(Image from

My suggestion is rather than "shut it down", let's turn it around!

Here is one simple lesson idea for teaching our students how to use the Google Docs chat feature appropriately to support writing, project based learning, and online collaboration.

Google Chat Writing Warmup
1.  Put students into a small group of 3-5 and allow them to chose one student as a leader.
2.  Have the "leader" create a Google document and share it with the rest of the members.
3.  Provide each group with a specific question to research and discuss.
     Example: "High sugar content sodas are bad for your health and should be outlawed in schools."
4.  Show students how to share their ideas using the chat window in the shared document.
5.  Share guidelines with students for staying on task, using appropriate language, and respecting teammates' ideas and opinions.

After this activity is complete have the group members grade each other on the guidelines. Share examples of students using chat appropriately with the class and invite them to use the chat feature in the future when doing collaborative projects or research.

You can also set a "No Chat" expectation for students when you would prefer that they work independently.  Perhaps a "No Chat" sign in the classroom would be appropriate to display when necessary (Image from

It's also a good idea to remind students that their chats are archived in Google Drive and that any inappropriate use of the tool will result in loss of privileges.

For some great ideas on assigning specific projects that use the Chat feature, check out this article at  You can also find some more ideas for using Google Drive (CSD Docs) in the classroom from the presentation 32 Ways to Use Google Apps in Classrooms and Schools  by Julia Stiglitz of the Google Apps for Educators Team.

For more information on using the Google Chat feature in Google Drive, check out the Google Drive Help Website.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Infographics in Education

Infographics are visual representations of data or information on any topic!  Janae Hunt and I presented on the use of infographics in the classrooms at UCET (Utah Coalition for Education Technology) at the beginning of the month.  I like using Piktochart and to create visual handouts, samples of which are included in the Blendspace presentation below.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Evernote for Anecdotal Note Taking

Evernote is digital notebook that allows you to take notes, clip web pages, upload images and files, and much more.  It is ideal for note taking, organization, and storage because it syncs between computer, smartphone, and tablets making your information available everywhere.  Evernote's tagline is "Remember Everything."

Evernote is a great tool for educators to become familiar with and use for classroom organization, management, lesson planning, and file saving purposes.  Teachers are getting excited about the ability to begin going paperless and are finding many uses for Evernote in their classrooms.
Classroom Uses:
A few ideas for how teachers can use Evernote:
  • Creating lesson plans and organizing in notebooks and with tags 
  • Taking notes during Professional Development, faculty meetings, etc.
  • Anecdotal Notes including images of student work samples
  • Audio recordings of students explaining work, oral presentations, and reading fluency samples
  • Create notes including PDF's, instructions, uploads to share and email to parents and students
  • Save articles and web clippings that can be organized and shared later
  • Upload and save pictures of students, their work, and important events
  • Creating check lists and to do check boxes
  • Set email reminders for a specific date and time in notes
  • Online file storage including PDF's and images to be accessed anywhere
  • Sharing information through social networking like Facebook, Twitter, email, and more
  • Writing sub plans that can include links, pictures of assignments, and other resources which can be shared through email
To view a Prezi that is a great example of how one teacher is using Evernote in her classroom on a daily basis click here.  This Prezi was created by Rebecca Spink and was found here.  

Why aren't you connecting?

I'm going to do a brief review of a cool new app that I found out about yesterday. First I want to talk about how I found it. If you know our department, you will know that we are big users and promoters of Twitter. We don't watch our twitter feeds all day, but when we have a chance we'll watch the feed for a few minutes to see what is happening out there. Yesterday I was watching my feed and saw a couple of pictures and mentions of something called ChromVille. Not knowing what it was I did a quick search online and found out.

ChromVille is an augmented reality app. Click on the link for a definition of what it is. In the case of ChromVille what it does is it lets you print out a blackline sheet that you can then have students color. There are 5 different scenarios (villages) that you can download sheets from. You then download the ChromVille App. In the app you select the village that matches the sheet the student colored. You hold your iPad over the sheet until it reads the paper correctly, then the characters and artifacts on the page pop up in 3D. You can then rotate the paper and see the items from different points of view. Here is an example of what it looks like.

Here is the official how to use Chromville video.

How to use Chromville app from Chromville on Vimeo.

So Chromville is pretty cool. It really isn't the point of the message. The point is that I found it because I am involved with the global education community on Twitter and other places. You may say, "well I don't have time for that!" If you could make finds like Chromville and really important things, isn't it worth investing a little time everyday. I believe it is, for all of us. If you aren't on Twitter and want to know more, contact your EdTech. has been used for book orders for years, but did you know that the Scholastic Website is also a great learning resource for teachers, parents, kids, administrators, and librarians? The Scholastic Website has a lot of free resources to get people excited about reading and learning. Teachers could show book talks or even author interviews to their students.  It might just be the perfect way to get that struggling reader hooked on books. 

Although some of the materials are for purchase, many others are free.  Here are just some of the great free resources that Scholastic has to offer:

For Teachers-
  • Resources and Tools
  • Daily Starters
  • Over 2,800 Lesson Plan Ideas for Grades K-12
  • Tools
    • Graphic Organizers
    • Flash Card Makers
    • Spelling Wizard
  • Freebie Corner
  • Strategies and Ideas
    • Professional Development Videos
    • Featured Blogs
  • Student Activities
    • Computer Lab Activities
    • Study Jams-Interactive Activities
    • Interactive Whiteboard Activities
  • Books and Authors
    • Book Trailers
    • Book Talks
  • Etc.
For Administrators-
  • Videos
  • Blogs
  • Articles
  • Professional Development Ideas
  • Leadership Concepts
  • Technology Tools
  • Etc.
For Kids-
  • Featured Books and Authors
  • Games
  • Blog Posts about Books, Celebrities, and More
  • Message Boards
  • Printables
  • Stories
  • Etc.
For Librarians-
  • Author Videos
  • Book Talks
  • Book Previews
  • Author Interviews
  • Read-Alouds
  • Etc.

 Check out today and see how this website can benefit you!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

SMART Magic Pen

Did you know that SMART NoteBook software has a magic pen? Well it does and it’s amazing. You access it from your toolbar by selecting the 3 pen icon. That expands a new pen window to the right and you click on the arrow that is in the bottom on the pen button. Select Magic Pen and you are off.

There are 3 things that are really cool that I’m going to share with you. First, draw a line with it and it will magically disappear after a few seconds. Second, draw a circle around a area of a picture and it highlight it. The rest of the picture will fade and the circle will be normal. You can also grab the circle and move it around. Last, you can draw a square and what ever is in that square will be selected and zoomed in on. It’s like magic and the students really enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Word Clouds for Kids

There seem to be several word cloud services available for teachers to use in the classroom.  The one that I like to use with teachers, especially in elementary, is called Word Clouds for Kids. This word cloud generator is free.  Once words are added to the text box, a word cloud is generated, and a tool bar of graphical buttons are used to manipulate the appearance of the word cloud.  Colors, fonts, and layouts can be changed and it's easy to go back to the text box to edit words just by clicking on a back arrow button.  Students can also save their word clouds to the desktop as a jpeg or print directly from the Internet site.  Another bonus for teachers is that educational computer games are offered by grade levels K-5. If you go to the home page of Word Clouds for Kids called ABCya, elementary teachers will not only find educational computer games, but also Apps for Kids to use on iOS devices. Note:  The only drawback is that there are advertisements that will be seen on the site, but that is how the site is paid for so that teachers can use it for free with their students. Check it out!

2nd Grade Examples from Granite Elementary


Cracking the Code...

One of the most important functions of Education Technology I have come to realize is preparing students to use Technology in productive ways that will make them successful humans after (and perhaps during) their K-12 educational experience.  I attended a technology club at a high school in our district and was so impressed with the enthusiasm of the students who came to learn and experience writing computer code.

Seeing how excited these kids were to collaborate and create something in this mystifying language was truly inspiring.  While it was extremely cool to witness such enthusiasm for learning, I couldn't help but think about the kind of trajectory these experiences were placing on the students at this activity.  More and more industry is focused on technology and in innovation and engineering solutions that drive the other industries.  Being able to write and manipulate Code has become a skill that is in high demand these days.  Many companies have reported that they have a difficult time finding employees with these skills.  The public schools are now being approached by companies who would like their core instruction to include computer programming.  This means that the tools to learn these important skills have never been more accessible.

Websites like have made lessons that are easy enough for a young elementary student to begin dabbling in the exciting world of computer coding.  Plural Sight is a Utah company that has offered its free educational opportunities to schools in the area.  They came to the technology club activity I mentioned earlier and taught the students.  I'm not a computer programmer, but I know where to find the tools to help kids get started and that is really empowering!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

iPhoto Slideshows

We are getting closer and closer to the end of the school year -- a time for field days, awards assemblies, year books, and, of course, the end of year slideshow! My favorite tool for creating a quick and easy slideshow is iPhoto. I like it because it does most of the work for me. We all know how hectic the end of the year gets, so anything that is time-saving is very helpful.

So, how do you get started with your iPhoto slideshow? First, gather all the photos you want to have in your slideshow. This is the hardest part, especially if you are trying to gather photos from other people. ;) Add all of the photos you want in your slideshow to iPhoto by simply clicking and dragging them onto the iPhoto icon on your dock. Save time by selecting all of the photos and dragging them to the iPhoto icon all at once. iPhoto will open and take a few moments to load all the photos you just added. They will then show up in iPhoto as your last import.

Next you will need to select all of the photos you just imported. (The shortcut for selecting all is Command A.) iPhoto will highlight these photos in yellow.

With the photos selected, click on the + sign at the bottom of your screen and select Album, then New Album. Type the name you want to give the album, and type the return key.

The photos you have gathered for your slideshow are now stored as a group in iPhoto, making them easy to access later using the navigation on the left side bar. If you have other photos, either already in iPhoto or anywhere on your computer, that you want to add to your slideshow, simply click and drag them onto the name of your new album.
Now that all of your photos are gathered and in one place, it's time to make your slideshow! Go to your album by clicking on its name in the left side bar. Once again, select all of the photos in your album (Command A). When they are all yellow again, click on the plus sign at the bottom of your screen, and this time select Slideshow, then New Slideshow.

iPhoto will automatically create a new slideshow project for you in your left side bar. You will notice that all of the photos are shown across the top of your show. You can click and drag these photos to rearrange their order if you want to.

Using the tool bar across the bottom of your screen, you can instantly play your slideshow! As you watch, if you decide there are things you would like to change about the show, simply move your mouse and a tool bar will show up. Click on the settings icon, and you have access to all kinds of music, style, transition, and caption options.

Your slideshow is all set and ready to play. If you want to keep the slideshow to play later, you can click the Export button and send your show to your iTunes library where you can enjoy it again and again!

Easy Grading

Have you ever used a Rubric before? I know that when I first heard of them, i thought that it would make for a lot more work on my part as a teacher. Then I found out the truth!
Rubrics are a great way to grade assignments that you give your students. It does several things for you. First, it helps you grade every paper the same way because you are looking for different criteria that you have set up before you gave the assignment. Second, it lets the students know exactly what is expected of them and what they need to do to get the grade that they want. Third, parents know what is expected of the students and why they got the grade they did.
Rubrics can also be used in peer reviewing. They can be used as a check list of items that you want included in an assignment or they can be used as a self evaluation of a project.
There are several tools that you can use to create Rubrics. My 2 favorite tools are the Rubric tool from UEN ( and the Rubric tool located inside of Canvas (
I hope that you will enjoy using these and if you have never used a Rubric before, try it!
UEN's Rubric Tool

Friday, April 11, 2014

Using Piktochart to Create Infographics

Piktochart is a fabulous tool for creating infographics, fliers, and advertisements.  Piktochart offers free and paid subscription options with plenty of templates to help you create professional looking work.  Piktochart is fairly easy to use with its drag and drop style tools and familiar editing tools.  Piktochart offers hundreds of free icons and graphics for your use as you design your masterpiece!

Piktochart offers lots of free how to videos to help you get started in your quest for infographic perfection.

This guide will walk you through the process of how to create an infographic  in just 5 minutes!

Need some ideas for teacher and student use?  Check out these ideas:

Student UseTeacher Use
  • Get to know you activity
  • Compare/contrast
  • Research Report
  • Book Report
  • Resume
  • Portfolios
  • and so much more!
  • Disclosures
  • Classroom Rules
  • Presentation (i.e. historical event)
  • Resume
  • Instructions/Assignments
  • Handouts and Posters
  • Reporting Student Data
  • and so much more!

If you're not sure how or why you should use infographics in your classroom, watch this TED talk by Andreas Schleicher called Use Data to Build Better Schools.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Telegami is a fun app for anyone to create an avatar that will allow you to record up to 30 seconds of speech, or will "speak" text you type. It will also allow for the uploading of images into the background to personalize it before posting it to social media or emailing the link out for use in other locations. The avatar/ character you create is very easy to manipulate and will allow you to change everything from shoes to hair color to make it look more like the speaker (or like whomever you prefer). It is a very simple to use application that would work for most ages/ grades.

 In a high school English classroom this past week, I worked with 9th graders who used this app to do a book review as a character from the novels they'd read. As part of their assignment, the students created word-clouds of vocabulary terms from the book using Word Collage ($0.99) and then used those word-clouds as the background of their Telegami presentation. Then, they had their avatar/ character speak a summary of the novel itself before they uploaded the link to the class Canvas page.
The feedback from students was very positive because they were able to easily create their Telegami book report in class and upload the link with ease! Great app for beginners and younger students too!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quizlet for Vocabulary Practice

Quizlet is a web-based program that allows students to practice vocabulary words in a variety of ways.  After creating a teacher account, students are able to practice vocabulary words using flashcards to learn the words, the test feature to be quizzed, and the games 'Scatter' and 'Space Race' to practice.  The flashcards are easy to make and allow for language choice if you are teaching a second language.  The 'Sets' of flashcards can be left public and shared amongst other teachers.  Your students can then go to, search your username and find the 'Sets' of flashcards you created and practice.

Friday, April 4, 2014

2 Quick Ways to Start Using QR Codes in Your Classroom

Today we see more and more teachers using QR codes in their classrooms. 

If you are not sure what a QR code is, take a look at the image on the left. A QR code is like a hyperlink for your iOS device.  To use a QR Code, you need to download a QR Code Scanner app onto your iOS device.  The QR Code reader app uses the built in camera to scan the code. Once the code is scanned it will redirect you to a designated website, just like when you click on a hyperlink it takes you to a specific website.
As an educator if you want to  QR codes in your classroom, your students have to have access to an iOS device. If you have iPads in your school, this could be a great use for them.  

QR codes in the classroom can can be used for many things. Students can use QR codes to aid in their research, as an answer key, or as a  technology center.  Here are two suggestions for how you can get started with QR codes in your classroom today:

Skills-Based Technology Center
You can use QR codes for differentiation in your technology center. If you have a group of students that need to work on a particular skill you can give them one QR code. If you have another group of students who need to work on a different skill you can give them another QR code that matches this skill. QR codes all look the same, so I would color code these based on the differing skills. 

Answer Key
Posted the answer key online and have your students check their working by using a QR code to access the answer key. This is a fun an innovative way to get students to learn from their own learning. 

If you want to start using QR codes in your classroom all your have to do is create one. How do you create QR code?  There are many free QR code generator sites out there. On these sites you can copy and paste the link you want to link to into a generator, and like magic the generator will create a code that you can print out and let the QR fun begin!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Things I Have Learned this Year from Colleagues

I have learned a lot from my fabulous colleagues this year.  Here are some of the best pointers I've learned.

1. The accessibility features on a mac are very handy for zooming in and out during presentations.
To do this, make sure to have accessibility enabled and then you can zoom in with using the ctrl+track/mouse and presto! You're there. It is particularly helpful when you are trying to show a URL.

2. Not all headphones are alike. A good rule of thumb is that if they are cheap, they are cheap.

3. Chromebooks are actually a great alternative for college students and anyone wanting to collaborate.

4. iPhones are great tools for use in the classroom. Use them as clickers. Use them as cameras. Use them to record students reading to each other.

5. Sock Puppets app is great for DLI.  Have the students role play in the Dual Immersion language.

6. Use the clock app on the iPad and display using the Apple TV as a timer and also for stop watch.

7. When having students use the camera app on iPads, have them play for at least 30 minutes before you want something serious.

8. Relax and learn from your students. They can really teach you a lot.

9. If you can't figure something out, ask a fifth grader.

10. If the fifth grader doesn't know, ask a teenager. They DEFINITELY know.