Monday, November 30, 2015

iPad Coding Apps for Beginners

As we approach Computer Science in Education Week this year. I wanted to share 3 iPad apps that are great for your young students to use for their Hour of Code. The age/grade ranges are suggestions, you may have to differentiate accordingly for your students. REMEMBER: "Hour of Code" doesn't mean that a child needs to be on an app for a solid hour non-stop. Ten minutes a day here or there would be great for our young coders.

Kindergarten - 1st Grade:

Kodable is great for the basic coding concepts. Students select the directional steps that need to be taken to get from one side of the screen to another.
This gives students the basic idea that algorithms are the steps needed to accomplish a task. Kodable allows teachers to set up classrooms and view their students progress via class codes through their website.

Lightbot: Code Hour
1st - 2nd Grades: 

Lightbot Code Hour asks students to be specific in the amount of steps that need to be taken within the algorithm. The Lightbots also perform rotations and actions.

Scratch Jr.
2nd Grade and above:

While this is a "Junior" version of MIT's Scratch program, it is still fairly complex compared to the other two apps mentioned. I believe that a child would have more success trying the Kodable and Lightbot Apps out first, before jumping into Scratch Jr. It offers many complex features. Students are able to add multiples within steps for an algorithm to be completed. Sound effects and voice can be added as well. Once they become comfortable with coding concepts, Scratch Jr. allows for endless creative ideas for your students.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Graphic Design Tools for ALL Students

Students are constantly bombarded with graphics in their daily lives. Social media, web page adds, video game consoles, and the environmental print around them all use graphic design tools to give our students information. So the question quickly becomes, how can our students create graphic representations of the information we want them to report and present?

While there have been tools like Microsoft Paint and Adobe Photoshop out there for years, they haven't always been "student friendly." The thought of a student quickly using those tools to make a short presentation or exit ticket was hardly an option.

For the last couple of years, I have really began to enjoy using 2 specific graphic design tools with students of all ages in the Springdale School District: Canva and Piktochart. They are both relatively easy to use, and allow students to create various types of Infographics, Presentations, Exit Tickets, and more. Both sites have several templates to get students started, and several free icons and graphics for students to use. The ability to import their own images is also easy.

If you are in a Google Apps for Ed domain, you can sign in to both sites through Google!

Check out a few examples that I was able to quickly make with these two programs, and give the sites a try for yourself. Your students will enjoy using these tools to creatively display what they have learned.

Newspaper Report - PiktoChart

Short Book Review - Canva

Time Lines - PiktoChart

Student Generated Vocabulary Cards - Canva

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Using Zaption or EDpuzzle: Teaching Students HOW to Watch Videos

I came across an article published by Gaggle titled The Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Flipping Their Classrooms by Jackie Myers. A quick read that is well worth your time. It points out a few mistakes teachers make when they begin to flip their classroom. One of which really stood out to me. "Not teaching students HOW to watch videos."

For decades we have been using technology within the school to show educational videos to our students. From reel to reel to VHS to DVD and now to sources like YouTube, students of all ages have viewed videos in their classroom. In May, ISTE tweeted that "40% of students use online videos to help with homework." Because of these facts, it is easy for teachers to think that students automatically already know HOW to watch videos to gain information. The truth of the matter is, students need guidance and modeling if they are expected to watch a flipped lesson, or educational video, and have a firm grasp of the content that was on the screen.

This can be done in several ways in the classroom, but there are a couple of tools that could be used to accomplish this task: Zaption and EDpuzzle.

Zaption and EDpuzzle are two sites that allow a teacher to take a video and insert questions or comments as the video plays for the students. These are both excellent tools when it comes to using videos in the classroom.

Of course the questioning options are a great. The teacher can ask open response or multiple choice questions and collect data. This is really allows the technology to be used at a new level it hasn't before. Students have the time to stop and review video material before answering the questions. The previous way of whole group viewing obviously didn't allow for this.

However, for the idea of teaching students HOW to watch videos, the commenting options are fantastic. The teacher can simply add comments to the video for the students. Students could then write those comments down on what ever note taking method they desire. This would be a great way to model for students either face to face, or in a flipped environment.

Both platforms import videos from a variety of sources, such as YouTube. They both also allow you upload videos that you have created.

Example of EDpuzzle

Example of Zaption

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

iPads in the Primary Classroom: A few apps to get you started

As we continue to go 1:1 in our district in Springdale, AR, one of our biggest challenges is finding great apps for our Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade classrooms to use.

Here is a short list of just a few FREE apps to get you started:

ABC - Magnetic Alphabet Lite for Kids - Learn to write!
By Dot Next

Just as the title of the app suggests, this is simply a magnetic letter board for your students to use. The letters are easy to pull from a tray and drag and manipulate. 

Talking ABC - Magnetic Alphabet for Education in English and Spanish
By Tatiana Churanova

This is basically the speaking version of a magnetic alphabet board. The voice is fairly natural, but can sound a little strange on some words. When choosing the letter, it names the letter for the student, but will not make the sound of the letter by itself. As soon as you start to blend the letters together, it will begin to "sound it out" for the students.

ABC Alphabet Phonics - Preschool Kids Game Free Lite
By Innovative Investments Limited

A great app for students learning to or struggling with identifying letters. A voice on the app says a letter name, and the child touches the letter to identify it. As they progress, more letters are added to the screen to make it more challenging for the students. A highly engaging app, with immediate feedback for the students.

Little Writer - The Tracing App for Kids

A great app for students to learn how to write letters and sight words. The app will not let a student continue until the child traces the letter according to the path the app displays. 

To help this process transfer into their handwriting, teachers could have students write the letter or word on their iPad onto a piece of paper as well. The use of a child friendly stylist is a great option as well.
These apps can be a great way to get your iPad classroom started. Of course, there are many great apps out there, and these are just ones that I have seen success with. Feel free to comment below on other apps that are worth trying out for our primary students!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Digital Badges: A Simple Way to Motivate

Digital Badges have started to become a big deal in the everyday classroom. In a way, you can think of them as the new paper certificate. As stated in the title, they are a simple way to motivate students. 

Why do students care about badges? The answer is Gameification. 

In all of the video games and apps that your students are playing, they earn badges. If you will notice, they earn them for all sorts of things: finishing a level, the time it took for them to complete a task, finding extra items (like coins), and so on.

Kids (and adults) love collecting those badges in the games they play. In turn, they can quickly love collecting badges in your classroom. 

So after reading this, you may be thinking 2 things:
1) How do I create badges?
2) What do I give them out for?

Badge Creation Websites

Credly - My personal favorite. What I believe is the easiest and quickest Badge Creator out there.

Open Badge Designer - Not as easy as Credly, but they seem to have more options for design.

Badge Ideas
Here is a quick list of things that you could give badges for in your classroom!

  • Bronze Reader - after 10 books are read
  • Silver Reader - after 25 books are read
  • Gold Reader - after 50 books are read
  • Super Reader - after 100 books are read
  • Problem Solver Badge
  • Collaborator Badge
  • Hard Worker Badge
  • Citizenship Badge
  • Perfect Attendance Badge (Monthly)
  • Academic Growth Badge
These are just a few ideas to get you started, please feel free to comment below to add your badge ideas that you have or will add for your classroom!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Remind - A Great School Year Begins with a Great Communication System

For the last few years, several teachers have used Remind 101 to communicate with students and their parents.

Recently, Remind 101 has had a makeover and they are now just referred to as Remind. With the new name, also come some great features!

What is Remind?

Remind is a simple communication system for you to use with a group of people. Of course, teachers use it with students (over the age of 13) and their parents to communicate the important info about their classroom.

Parents or students sign up by using a code that they text in to the Remind system's number. They are then set to receive notifications by the teacher. It's that simple. All the teacher has to do is send a message out from the Remind App on their phone, or the Remind website.

Why use it?

So you may be thinking, "Okay, well I have all of their emails and phone numbers, why do I need to use Remind to communicate?"

Here are my responses:
1. How many emails have you sent out to parents that have never been read by them? They are like the rest of us, your email most likely got lost in the pile of junk mail, and if it was read by them, it was too late.
2. How many of your students or parents, do you want to give your personal number to? My personal answer on that is zero.

By using Remind to send text notifications to your parents and students, you are increasing the likelihood that they will actually read the message sent, and you are keeping your own personal cell info private. It truly is a win-win for all stakeholder's involved.


Remind has a Chat feature that is controllable by the teacher. If they would like, they can turn chat on, and students/parents can respond to the notifications sent by the teacher. This conversation will only be seen by that teacher and that specific student. The conversation is also logged in the Remind system for documentation of the conversation. The teacher can set up "office hours" for the chat. This gives total control to the teacher as to when the chats can occur.

I would personally set up a separate remind group for parents to sign up for than students, this way you have control over setting these chat settings up for each group separately.

With the new school year upon us, now is the perfect time to set up a communication system like Remind!

(These are solely the opinions of this Blog Writer - Remind has not given compensation of any form for the publication of this Blog article)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chrome Extensions for Students and Teachers

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting several sessions at the Innovation Institute held at Lakeside Jr. High in Springdale, Arkansas. The following presentation was from my last session there. It consists of just a handful of Chrome Extensions that would be great for classroom use. This is not a top 5 list, because I have found extensions to be a very individualized thing. They are just some extensions that either work well for me, or I have seen work well in the classroom.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

YouTube Offers Free Music for your Classroom Videos

One of the things that teachers and students often want to add to a video presentation is background music. Of course, this can become difficult when you want to post these videos to YouTube or any social media site. Do to copyright issues, you are not allowed to post videos with just any music added to them.  

YouTube actually gives you a solution to this problem! They offer free to use music that you or your students can add to videos that is legal to post and share to the public.

I have made the following tutorial for you to see just how this works:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 iPad apps for Student Presentations and Meta-Cognition

One of the best things about going 1:1 with technology is the amount of options students have to present their learning experiences. There are numerous apps out there that will allow students to display their thinking and make presentations both within and far beyond the classroom walls. Here is a list of a few apps that can be used for student creation in the classroom (listed alphabetically):

Book Creator Free
Book Creator is simply what is says it is, it is an app that allows students to create their own books. An added bonus is the ability to allow students to record their voice on each page of the books as well as embed pictures from their camera roll. I think this book has amazing journal potential for students. They could do a weekly math problem in the book and explain how they solved the problem. Over the course of the year you could see and hear how the students thinking has evolved. Of course the free version does have its down side, you may only create one book at a time.

Draw and Tell 
Draw and Tell is a great app for literacy usage in the classroom. Students can create drawings from scratch, or they can use the camera and stamps and stickers to create. After their artwork is complete, they can then record their story. It is partially interactive as they tell the story. They can move some of the objects as their story is told. Afterwards their creation will be saved to the camera roll.

The app is created by Duck Duck Moose and costs $1.99 in the app store. It is also part of the Drawing and Storytelling bundle by Duck Duck Moose.

Educreations Interactive Whiteboard
Educreations is one of the most popular apps for the K-12 classroom, with good reason. This is a great tool for teachers to use to flip their classroom, but it can be an amazing tool for students to use to explain their thinking. There is a recording option as they work on the white board. This option records all of their actions as well as their voice. An excellent tool for not only student presentations, but to record the students meta-cognitive process as well.

It is currently free at the App Store

Explain Everything
Explain Everything is a screen-casting app with a ton of possibilities. Similar to Educreations, students can use it as a whiteboard to write and explain their thinking. So much more can be done as well. Slide presentations, websites, YouTube videos, and various other media can be embedded into the student's project. Students can build outstanding presentations and record their explanations as well.

I had the privilege of hearing Reshan Richards, the creative mind behind the app, speak at the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit in February. His passion about giving students a tool to explain their thought process was contagious. The app's ability for students to present not just what they are learning, but how they learned it is truly remarkable.  

Explain Everything is currently $2.99 at the App Store

Shadow Puppet Edu
Shadow Puppet Edu allows students to create slide presentations with speech. Similar to PowerPoint or Google Slides, students create an order to how they would like their material presented. Once they have created their presentation they can then add a voice over to their product.  A great tool for putting together quick presentations that can be easily shared inside and outside of the classroom.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Google Templates: The Greatest Thing in Drive That You May Not Know About!

Inside of Google Drive are a plethora of templates available for your use. The question is... Are you and your students using them? Check out the video below to see how to access them!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Differentiate and Redefine Your Digital Reading Instruction with this Great Site!

The Smithsonian has incredible sites for kids K-12 and even a Spanish site as well. Teen Tribune for grades 9-12, Tween Tribune for grades 5 - 8, and TTJunior for grades K-4.

What is great about these sites is that they are all connected, and carry basically the same non-fiction, current events content. They are adjusted to fit lexile levels. This is a great way to have differentiated reading groups read the same content, but at a level they can successfully read at. New articles are posted daily, but all articles are easily searchable by topic.

Teacher Accounts and Classrooms
The Smithsonian website allows you to set up a teacher account as well with multiple classrooms. Your students can read articles and make comments. Students can have conversations within your classroom on the site about these articles.

SAMR - Redefinition Possibilities
You can also have the options of making your classroom "Public." After you approve student comments, they are then sent out to other public tribune classes all over the globe. As their website explains, "When you go public, you allow your students to connect with other students around the world, while teachers remain in complete control." 

For those of you familiar with the SAMR model, this is a great way to constantly have students at the Redefinition level as they communicate with other students across the country about what they are reading.

With rich, trusted content, and many opportunities for differentiation and tech integration, the Smithsonian Tribune sites are among the best for non-fiction literacy.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

iMovie Book Trailers

The iPad offers many creative avenues for students to present material to teachers, classmates, and the web. Apple's iMovie App (which is free for any iPad Air owners) is one of the best tools for students to utilize.

Inside of iMovie, there is a feature where students can create Trailers. Several teachers throughout the country love this feature for the purpose of student created Book Trailers. This is an excellent alternative to the old "book report." Students also have several different publishing options for sharing outside of the classroom.

The trailer feature is a great tool for teachers because it can be used teach students several literary elements:

Genre: The student begins the process by choosing a genre to describe their type of book. Now these may not be the exact same as the genre types that you teach in your classroom, but they are closely related and could be used to show genre comparisons.

Setting & Characters: In the layout sections of the Trailer project, students will have to identify the setting of the story as well as the characters. 

This is where students can have some creative freedom. They could simply add images that they find, or create and record scenes using their device.

Story Development/Plot: As they develop their book trailer, students will have to summarize the story development. Of course, you don't want them giving away too much of the story. As stated before though, this can become a much more creative project than the standard book report.

Benefits for ELL Students: Besides the creative avenues and literary components, iMovie Trailers can be a great scaffold for your English Language Learners. The Storyboard layout section gives the students great sentence frames to follow. These can be easily modified by the students by just changing a few words, or they can be completely re-written altogether.

There are multiple benefits to allowing students to use iMovie in the classroom, the best being the student engagement that it will create for both the presenter and the viewer. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

4 Ideas Educators can Learn from Gaming

We can often hear educators discuss how difficult it is to reach students in their classrooms and keep their interest. In fact, a lot of blaming goes towards how much time students spend on video games, as well as the instant gratification of today’s society.

If you step back to think about it, what happens in video games are the very things that we as educators aspire to have in our classrooms. Maybe instead of despising video games, we should in turn learn from them. After all, it is highly unlikely that the video game industry accidentally stumbled upon the ideas of ways to get kids interested. They most likely spent a large amount of time and money in their pursuit, so why not take advantage of that.

Let’s take a look at a few of the aspects of gaming that we should aspire to have in our classrooms.

1. Risk Taking Environment - Failure IS an option -
The video game environment allows students to fail, and then try and try and try again. All of this happens within a safe environment. Teachers understand that the classroom is supposed to be a safe place, but this doesn’t just include a bully free zone. It should include the opportunity to fail, and learn from that failure and try again. The idea that “failing is bad” is what can hinder us from learning. In fact, in video games the failure seems to make the child work harder at achieving the next time around. Failure is only bad when students aren't given the chance to learn from that experience.

2. Connections to their World
Gamers know exactly what needs to be done and WHY it needs to be accomplished. It doesn't have to even be realistic for them (for example: a plumber needs to save the princess from the giant lizard). However, kids are bought in. Why are they bought into this? Because they understand the WHY. We often talk about the real world connections that we should have, but do we really bring it down to a level that they understand. We all know that the day’s of “you need to learn this, because I’m telling you it’s important” are over. What if we placed the standards and skills that the students need to learn in a mission or goal for them? It’s possible that this will make the true connection to THEIR world through THEIR eyes, not ours.

3. Missions & Objectives
Games have a clear overall mission to them. There is an end goal in sight. How do the players get to this goal? They have certain levels or stages that they go through, with checkpoints along the way. We as educators know where we are in the lesson, but do the students understand where they are within your “game”? Do they know when they have reached the checkpoint? Do they understand when they have reached an objective? Do they know how far they are from achieving the overall mission of what is to be learned?

4. Rewards

Think of the reward systems that are created in video games. Kids aren't playing them for a grade, they also aren't playing them to earn money. So why do they continue to play them? Points and Badges. They want to earn points and receive badges. Even older kids and adults want to earn the highest amount of points possible and receive a badge for their collection. Most gamers know their ranking on the Xbox Live or Playstation Network communities. Even Apple has a “Game Center” that users connect their iPhone/iPad to compare their game play against others around the world.

Why not bring this concept into your classroom. Let students earn a badge during a formative assessment, instead of always worrying about their grade. Create an environment of friendly competition and post “gamer” scores. Websites like and are a great starting points.

Transforming Your Classroom

Of course, totally transforming your classroom in a few days with all of these ideas is most likely not a reality. However, hopefully reflecting on some of these ideas can help make your classroom an even more engaging place to be. Successful change happens over time. Remember if it doesn’t work the first time you try one of these ideas, try it again - that’s what the gamers do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sharing Student Work With Parents in a Paperless Classroom

Currently one of the biggest challenges for Google Classroom or any paperless classroom is, how do I "send" the student's work home to parents. Sure you could print out every assignment the student does, but doesn't that negate the purpose of a paperless classroom? I suppose you could have the student give the parent their password to their Google account, but there have to be better options. Here are a couple ideas about keeping parents in the loop with student work.

IMPORTANT! Before any Google Apps work can be seen by parents, you will need to go to the advanced share setting and change them to, "Anyone with the link can view" This will include people outside of your school's domain.

1. Google Shornters:

Google's URL Shornter allows people to condense the long URL that a Google App creates into a much smaller version. This would allow a student to simply write down the shortened URL on paper and pass it along to their parents. It's also simple enough for most students to do without much teacher guidance or help. For example this extremly long URL that goes beyond the legnth of the address bar

becomes this in the Google Shortner: infact you can even make it even shorter: A student could easily write this down and take it to their parents!

2. QR Codes

QR Codes are constanly appearing more and more. They are a quick and easy way for buisnisses to guide people to their websites for more information on goods and services. They can also easily be applied to your student's work and sent home to parents. 

Similar to Google Shortner, the URL for the Google App is placed in a QR code generator, I personally use the ShortenMe extension for Chrome and a QR code will appear. 

The student would then print out this QR code and bring it home for their parents to scan on their device. This may take a few more steps than the shortner, but it may be an easier way for a younger student to take something home to mom and dad if the teacher prints it out for them.

Of course these are just 2 ideas on how to keep parents in the loop. I'm sure there are many more! If you have an idea worth sharing, please do so below.